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Is now a good time to switch energy supplier?

We explore how to save money on your energy bills during lockdown

Is now a good time to switch energy supplier?

With most of us spending more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, some people will be worrying about rising energy bills. 

As well as being conscious about how you consume energy in your home, the other natural thing to do would be to check whether you’re with the cheapest supplier. But is it safe to switch your energy provider at this time? 

Whether or not you’re comfortable with changing supplier, there are still ways you can potentially save on gas and electricity. Read on to find out how to get onto your current supplier’s cheapest tariff, discover our recommended providers if you’re looking to switch, and learn whether you’re eligible for a tax rebate on gas and electricity while working from home.

Check out our guide to 10 ways to save on energy bills.

Am I on my supplier’s cheapest tariff?

If you’re concerned about switching supplier at this time, an easy way to save money on your energy bills could be to move onto your current energy supplier’s cheapest tariff. Just over half (53%) of households are on default or out-of-contract tariffs, which are usually significantly more expensive than the best deals on offer, often charging close to the government’s price cap this is a limit on how much suppliers can charge per unit of gas and electricity. 

But beware: not all of the best deals are available if you contact the company directly. Some energy providers have exclusive deals with price comparison websites, as we reported on in March this year. Don’t assume you are getting the best deal by going direct and make sure you check popular price comparison websites before agreeing to a new energy tariff.

What type of tariff should I look for?

Sometimes fixed tariffs, where you agree to paying a set amount for units of gas and electricity over a certain period, can work out cheaper. Some come with exit fees if you want to leave the term early, but others won’t charge you anything if you want to leave for a better deal.

Once a fixed tariff ends, you will default to your supplier’s standard tariff. Be sure to look into switching or getting a new, cheaper tariff with your existing provider when your term comes to an end.

There are also variable tariffs, which can sometimes be expensive but also offer some suppliers’ cheapest rates, as they move up and down with wholesale energy prices. 

To find out more about tariffs and how they work, visit our guide on how to get the best energy deal.

Biggest energy suppliers in Great Britain: standard tariff vs cheapest tariff

Company Standard tariff (annual £) Cheapest tariff (annual £)
British Gas £1,122.86 £830.23
Bulb* £915.3 £915.3
EDF £1,125.71 £853.72
E.ON £1,125.87 £815.66
npower £1,125.87 £993.73
Octopus Energy £978.18 £900.42
OVO £1,124.96 £1,064.96
Scottish Power £1,125.85 £809.11
Shell Energy £1,125.85 £964
SSE £1,124.96 £916.06
Utility Warehouse £1,127.77 £1,043.14

*only has one tariff for all customers.
Prices are from Energylinx based on tariffs available in all regions in England, Scotland and Wales for a medium user (using Ofgem averages of 2,900kWh of electricity and 12,000kWh of gas per year), paying by fixed monthly direct debit, with paperless bills. Prices are averages across regions, are rounded to the nearest whole pounds and correct on 21 April 2020.

If you’re with one of the largest suppliers listed above, you can still make savings without switching suppliers, simply by getting off their default tariff. The companies with the largest gulfs between their standard tariffs and best tariffs for medium energy users are:

  • British Gas – save £292.63
  • E.ON – save £310.05
  • Scottish Power – save £316.74

Is it a good time to switch energy supplier?

As far as we know, there is little risk in switching suppliers at present. Though you may experience some delays while trying to switch, you will not lose your gas or electricity supply.

However, if you’re struggling to pay your bills at the moment you should not switch supplier or cancel your payments. Instead, contact your current energy company to discuss arrangements to help you through this difficult period. 

If you’re still set on switching because you’re unhappy with your current supplier and all the tariffs it offers, you might want to choose a deal from one of our Which? Recommended Providers for 2020, which were among the best-rated suppliers by their customers.

Their best rates for a medium energy user are:

  • Octopus Energy – £900.42 per year
  • Pure Planet – £902.20 per year
  • So Energy – £853.98 per year

The same customer could be charged £1,127 if stuck on a default tariff, so could save £273.02 by going with So Energy, which offers the cheapest tariff of any Which? Recommended Provider.

To discover how much your household could by switching, compare gas and electricity prices on Which? Switch, our independent switching site.

Pure Planet, like Bulb, only offers one tariff, so you can be sure you are getting its best price. However, both Octopus and So Energy have standard tariffs, so it is important to check you are getting the best available deal.

Are you eligible for tax relief while working from home?

If you are an employee and your company has asked you to work from home, you can claim for any additional expenses incurred from working at home, including energy you otherwise wouldn’t have used. You can claim through PAYE, or using a self-assessment tax return.

If you are self-employed, you can claim for a proportion of your energy costs, among other home expenses. You can work out the proportion based on the amount of time you spend working at home and how much of the house you need to power for the purpose of work. You must make your claim through a self-assessment tax form.

Check on the government’s website to see if you are eligible to claim for your work expenses. For more information about saving money while working at home, take a look at our breakdown of what working from home means for your finances.

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