Even though energy prices are high at the moment and cheap deals are hard to come by, it's still worth checking you're on the best energy deal for you.
The more you know about the kind of energy tariff and features you’re looking for, the more likely you are to find an energy supplier and deal you’re happy with.
Price comparison websites are the most popular way of looking for energy deals. Over half of switchers used them, according to our latest research. Going directly to an energy company is the next most popular.
New automatic switching services are only used by a small proportion at the moment – the same number of people said they switched after being approached by a salesperson either in-person or by phone.
Keep reading to find out about each switching method, including its pros and cons. Plus, keep in mind how easy (or not) those who switched using each method found the process.
These display a range of tariffs in price order so you can compare potential savings against your current deal.
At the moment, a couple of the biggest price comparison websites are suspended because there aren't enough tariffs they can earn commission on. Which? Switch is still running.
Price comparison websites don’t have to show every available tariff on the market. So if you don’t venture beyond a comparison site's initial recommendations, you might miss out on the cheapest tariffs.
When you use a price comparison website, remember that:
Check what the site says about which deals it displays automatically. You can often use the site's filters to see a wider range of deals than is initially displayed.
Bear in mind that you will need to contact the supplier directly if you pick a deal the website cannot switch you to.
Our independent energy price comparison service, , automatically displays deals that it can’t switch you to directly – so you can use it to check if you can save compared with your current tariff even if it can't complete the switch for you.
Automatic switching services do more of the legwork for you than price comparison websites. They continuously compare and, with your permission, switch you to deals they calculate to be the best (based on information you provide) to keep you on a good rate.
One of the best-known, Flipper, closed in September 2021. It said it 'can no longer sustain the great savings that Flipper customers have come to expect' thanks to increased gas wholesale prices and companies removing low-cost tariffs.
Look After My Bills has also paused its service. Switchcraft and Switchd are still running.
If you want a better energy deal with minimal effort, they could be worth a try. But be aware that few cheap deals are available at the moment and you may not get the very cheapest deal on the market.
Before using an autoswitching service, check the following:
It might seem like the best way to get the inside track and the cheapest deals, but some big firms don’t sell their cheapest deals on their own websites. Our found that this was the case for half of the biggest energy firms in December 2019.
This can be because their cheapest tariff is an exclusive deal with a third party, for example a price comparison website or autoswitching service. To access it, you’ll need to go direct to that service.
Some suppliers offer financial rewards for switching to them, including via refer-a-friend schemes that reward both the existing and new customer. In our survey of over 8,000 energy customers in September 2020, 10% said they receive a financial incentive of some sort from their supplier for recommending others.
If you’re invited to switch via one of these, make sure you check:
Energy deals come in two basic types: fixed or variable. Which one would suit you better will depend on how much certainty you want over the price you pay, and how often you want to switch.
Often also called 'standard' tariffs, they change price each time your supplier changes its rates.
Your supplier’s default (or out-of-contract) tariff will usually be variable. So if you have been with your supplier for a while, or didn’t switch after your fixed deal ended, it's very likely that you're on its standard variable tariff or default tariff.
Default tariffs are subject to a price cap. This is effectively a cap on the price charged for each unit of energy – not a cap on your total bill. The cap is reset by energy regulator Ofgem every six months and increased in October 2021 to its highest-ever rate.
You can leave a variable tariff whenever you like. You're not tied-in with a contract or exit fees.
These set the rate you pay for each unit of energy you use for a certain period of time (one or two years, for example).
This means that you know the price you pay for energy won’t rise during the period of your contract. If your energy company raises its prices, you won’t be affected – but you won’t benefit if its prices drop, either.
The very cheapest deals on the market tend to be a mixture of fixed and variable so it’s not as simple as picking one type to guarantee you get the cheapest rates.
However at the moment very few cheap energy deals are available of either type. In some cases, supplier's cheapest deals are their price-capped variable tariffs.
Previously suppliers have offered a range of cheap one-year fixed deals, competing to tempt customers to join them on these tariffs. This is why they were attractively priced.
There were cheap variable deals too - though the risk is that companies can (and do) change their variable tariff prices when the price of wholesale energy rises.
The price cap on out-of-contract of default variable tariffs doesn't mean that suppliers have to charge this amount. But many do.
Economy 7 and Economy 10 are the two most common time-of-use tariffs. If you're on one of these, you’ll probably have a special electricity meter that provides two different readings (also known as a two-rate meter).
This will change, though – as smart meters become more widespread, special meters won't be necessary. This will enable all homes with smart meters to access time-of-use tariffs. A few firms are offering these already. .
Time-of-use tariffs charge different rates for electricity used at different times of day. For example, a more expensive rate for electricity used at times of peak demand in the daytime, and a cheaper overnight rate.
To make the most of these tariffs, you need to use a certain proportion of electricity during the cheaper hours. You might do this by:
Use less than 30% on the cheaper rate and you might be better off on a single-rate electricity tariff.
If you have a time-of-use tariff and don’t think it’s the best deal for you, all energy companies with more than 50,000 customers must make their single-rate tariffs available to customers with restricted meters. This includes Economy 10 meters and white meters.
If you think you’d be better off on a single-rate tariff, and your meter needs changing to make this possible, your supplier cannot charge you to install a new meter. For a faster fix, some suppliers are willing to add the peak and off-peak readings together and charge you a single rate.
Some companies offer deals that use smart meter readings taken every half hour to offer tariffs tailored to different lifestyles or when electricity is cheapest for the supplier to buy.
You might not need to have a smart meter already installed in order to sign up to one of these deals, but it will be a condition of the tariff that you’ll need to get one installed.
There has been an explosion in the number of ‘green’ energy deals, since rules were removed limiting the number of deals energy companies could sell at once.
Prices vary and there is no set definition of what a ‘renewable’ tariff must include.
Some companies play a part in funding or generating renewable electricity or ‘green’ biogas, others simply buy the equivalent of what their customers use in renewable electricity. Companies also offer different proportions of renewable electricity, and some offer other social or environmental perks. See the .
If you’re keen to support renewable electricity, check your potential supplier’s arrangement.
If you’re tempted to buy more than gas and electricity from your energy company, check whether it would be cheaper to buy the equivalent from separate firms.
Before you switch energy supplier, check the terms and conditions of your deal.
If you want to leave a fixed-term tariff before the end of your contract, you may have to pay an exit fee. But don’t let this put you off.
You can sometimes get a discount if you pay by monthly direct debit. The amount you pay each month will be worked out by your gas or electricity supplier. It's based on the amount of energy you use, or are likely to use, in each year, divided by 12.
It often costs slightly more to pay when you receive your bill. If you pay as you go for energy, there’s another price cap in place, limiting how much suppliers can charge. Find out more, and whether a.
If you’re happy to view your bills online, opt for paperless billing. Requesting paper bills will often add to the cost of your tariff.
Whether or not you've just switched, there are several things you can do to keep your bills accurate.
Send your supplier regular meter readings to make sure you're being charged only for the energy you're actually using. Without these, your energy firm will estimate your usage. If you have a smart meter, it should send these automatically. You can choose between monthly, daily and half-hourly readings.
If you’re billed or pay monthly, and don't have a smart meter, it’s a good idea to send monthly meter readings. Some energy firms will send you reminders to do so, and you can often submit them online.
Besides sending regular meter readings, follow these steps to keep your energy bills in check: