If you can't stand the heat, switch supplier
Sunday 31 July 2005
You only need blink these days to miss another hike in your fuel bill. Last week, both EDF Energy and Powergen announced their fourth gas and electricity price increase in 18 months; the cost to the latter's average customer is now an extra £106 a year, according to price-comparison website uswitch.com.
These two suppliers are not alone. Since January 2004, Scottish & Southern Energy has raised its gas and electricity prices three times, while npower and Scottish Power have done so twice.
All point to the higher cost of wholesale gas, whose price has doubled in the past 12 months as a result of the depletion of UK reserves and a lack of access to European pipelines. The impact of this rise has been passed on to consumers.
But there are ways to beat the fuel bill blues, and the first is to consider switching energy supplier.
If you've never done this before - and about half of us never have - you can usually save an average of about £170, according to uswitch.com. And even if you've already switched in the past couple of years, check to see if it is worth doing so again as the price rises have been so swift.
Since the energy market was deregulated in the late 1990s, a greater choice of suppliers for gas and electricity has sprung up.
If you have internet access, try logging on to sites such as uswitch.com, simplyswitch.com and energyhelpline.com with details of how much you're paying now. They will compare different tariffs for you, free of charge, and arrange the changeover if you find a good deal.
Another approach is to put a lid on what you pay, with a "capped" tariff that usually lasts between six and 18 months. While you will pay more than on a standard contract to start with, at least there will be a price ceiling that lets you budget more easily.
Here's how it works: if a particular supplier's customers pay 20p per unit today, it might offer a price cap of 25p. If the cost then rises above this, you don't pay any more. But if this unit cost tumbles, so does the price.
The trouble is, these deals at these rates may not be around for much longer, says Mark Todd of energy- helpline.com. After last week's moves, he warns, other providers are likely to raise "gas bills by 20 per cent and electricity 15 per cent in late August". This could lead to more expensive caps.
"To protect themselves, consumers should consider moving to a capped tariff as soon as possible. There could be further price rises [from all suppliers] of around 10 per cent in January."
British Gas withdrew its capped tariff in June, and while npower, Scottish Power and Powergen still offer them, the rate for new applications will probably rise from August onwards.
But there are other ways to save money on your fuel bills. These include paying by direct debit, settling your bill within a set period, taking gas and electricity from the same supplier (known as "dual fuel") and managing your account online.
For example, Powergen offers a 3 per cent discount to customers paying by direct debit and Scottish & Southern offers a "prompt payment" discount of 3.5 per cent.
Scottish Power customers prepared to manage, and pay, their account online receive a £15.75 dis- count if they receive both gas and electricity from the company (or £5.25 if it's just electricity).
Some providers offer extra help for older or vulnerable people.
Powergen's Staywarm scheme, open to those who are 60 and over, offers a fixed price for 12 months from the date you sign up.
British Gas caps energy bills until October 2007 for customers who are over 60 and on pension credit.
A New Firm Takes Power
David Hulme is a switching supremo. After tiring of ballooning gas and electricity bills, he first changed his supplier to Powergen nearly two years ago.
But since then prices have risen enormously. His patience recently ran out with a £600 bill from Powergen for his three-bedroom house in Surrey, and so he began to look around for a new supplier.
Logging on to uswitch.com, Mr Hulme examined all the different deals and chose to sign up to npower's online tariff for dual fuel - capped until January next year.
The website estimates that he will be able to chop around 10 per cent - £60 - off his annual bill.
"I first switched ages ago and, after being in this house for 18 months, thought it was time to do it again," he says.
"Npower came out as cheapest on uswitch and said it could save us about 10 per cent.
"But, since then, Powergen has announced price increases, so the saving is probably worth more than that now."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?
Why the City Watchdog is concerned with the credit card industry
Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
iJobs Money & Business
£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
Negotiable: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly expanding, global Software/ SaaS Vendor ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens