Compare cheapest energy providers 2021
Let's be honest: you've got better things to do than spend hours setting up energy bills. With this guide, you can save yourself a lot of time, money and hassle.
Ironically, comparing and choosing the best gas and electricity provider and tariff can be energy-sapping. Do you go for fixed or variable prices? Dual or separate tariffs? What about exit fees?
Fortunately, once you've found the right deal, signing up to an energy supplier is actually very straightforward these days.
After reviewing the best energy providers, we'll share our eight practical tips on saving big money on gas and electric bills. 🤑
Best energy suppliers 2021
Here are the best places to find cheap gas and electricity for your home:
For many households, EDF is currently our best-buy energy supplier.
They offer great value on gas and electricity tariffs, free smart meters and their customer service is top-notch too. As the UK's largest producer of low-carbon electricity, you'll be doing your bit for the planet too.
We recommend going for one of EDF's fixed-term tariffs, which guarantees no price hikes for the length of your contract.
Some tariffs also have no exit fees so you don't have to stay the whole contract either – ideal for short term-time tenancy contracts. And if you come across a cheaper supplier later, no sweat, zero penalities to switch.
Octopus Energy (renewable + £50 bonus)
Sign up today using this special link.
Octopus Energy is quickly gaining loyal customers for providing 100% renewable electricity and being refreshingly transparent.
They offer both fixed and variable tariffs, and their transparent pricing is typically more competitive than the 'Big Six' energy suppliers for most households.
If you decide to switch again in the future, Octopus won't charge you any exit fees.
Previously, we had tried to rank and compare all the other main energy providers. But, ultimately, the deals depend on your specific circumstances and location.
So now we suggest using trusted comparison sites to find the cheapest energy supplier for your area.
MoneySuperMarket is our favourite when it comes to comparing energy suppliers.
As this comparison website is well established, they have great expertise when it comes to comparing gas and electricity tariffs. The simple process is done online and can be completed in minutes.
8 ways to save money on gas and electricity bills
Make sure you do these things to save money on your energy bills:
Don't pay for the previous tenants' energy
On the day you get your keys, take photos of all the meter readings in the house and submit them to the current energy supplier, making it clear you've just moved in.
If you don't, there's a good chance you'll receive a bill for the energy that was used before your tenancy started.
The next priority is to switch to a cheaper tariff or supplier (keep reading for more about this).
Fix your gas and electricity prices
The majority of homes will be on a standard variable tariff, which essentially means that when wholesale energy prices go up, so do their bills.
Choosing a fixed tariff protects you from any price hikes for the duration of the contract, with estimated savings of £150+ a year.
Some tariffs, like a couple of EDF's (our current top pick), don't have any cancellation or exit fees – even on fixed tariffs. This gives you the freedom to switch if you find a cheaper supplier.
Choose a dual fuel tariff for gas and electricity
Not all properties have a gas connection but, if yours does, it's usually cheaper to combine both your gas and electricity bills with a single supplier under a dual fuel tariff.
As well as being a good money-saving technique, another benefit is that you'll save time and hassle by having just one single bill to pay each month. And, if you have any issues with your gas and electricity, you'll only need to deal with one company rather than two.
Opt for paperless billing
Applying for an energy tariff with online-only billing (as opposed to paper billing) could save you a fair amount of money each year. It also does wonders for keeping your hallway floor tidy...
All of your bills will appear on your online account, where you can also arrange for monthly payments to go out of your account automatically. Easy.
Have a look at our tips on how to split bills with your housemates.
Pay by Direct Debit
Paying your bills by Direct Debit could save you a further 10% with some suppliers.
It's worth noting that when you submit your final meter readings, there might be a difference between the amount of energy used and what you actually paid for. In this case, you'll either have to pay more (debit) or ask for the difference to be refunded (credit).
If you notice when you first move in that you're paying more than you should be, don't forget that you'll likely overpay in summer (when you're not using the heating much) and underpay in winter, so it should even itself out across the year.
As the payments are automatic, Direct Debit makes it so much easier to keep paying your bills, even when you're not in your uni house. So, if you're lucky enough to be going away on holiday, whether to chill in the sun or ski in the snow, bills will be the last thing on your mind.
Check your energy meters
The chances are your chosen energy supplier will automatically use the previous tenants' usage to estimate how much your own monthly payments will be – especially as they're only legally obliged to read your meter once every two years.
To reduce the risk of paying too much or too little during your contract, submit your own meter readings every three months or so.
Just imagine if you were underpaying by £30 a month – at the end of a 12-month contract, that's a horrific £360 bill to unexpectedly have on your plate. We explain how to take meter readings below.
By 2024, the government plans to roll out smart meters as the standard across the country. These will automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier, and you'll be able to keep track of how much energy you're using through an In-Home Display.
Installation is free – just contact your energy supplier for more information on how to get one now.
Consider paying rent with bills included
If you can find accommodation where the rent includes basic bills (i.e. gas, electricity, water and internet) then you might be able to get a good deal – as long as the rent's reasonable, of course.
One perk to this option is that you don't have to worry about splitting your bills or relying on one housemate to deal with all the utilities. However, the drawback is that you won't have the credit-building benefits that come with being a good bill payer.
Plus, while some see this as a green light to use as much gas and electricity as they want without any price repercussions, landlords can charge you extra if your bills start to go crazy, so be careful.
And although it saves you the hassle of organising bills, it might not be the cheapest option.
Your landlord will probably overestimate how much energy you'll use (they don't want to lose money after all), so you might end up paying more than you need to. Weigh up the pros and cons before you commit.
Switch gas and electric providers
We can't stress this one enough.
Don't make the mistake of just sticking with the supplier that the house currently has when you move in – you'll pretty much always be able to switch to a cheaper deal.
Although some energy providers will charge a fee if you leave your contract early, you're now legally able to switch when you receive a notice from your supplier 42–49 days before your fixed-term tariff officially ends. If you leave at this point, you won't be charged, so there are no excuses not to shop around a little...
How to take meter readings
Unsure how to take a meter reading? Here are the key things you need to know:
If you have a smart meter, you don't need to worry about readings as your electricity usage will automatically be sent to your provider (more info on this below). But, if you have any of these three types of meter, you'll need to take readings: digital, electronic and dial meters.
Digital electricity meter
Digital meters are essentially just a line of numbers that you read from left to right.
Some numbers might be red (or surrounded in red) – ignore these.
Electronic electricity meter
Electronic meters work in pretty much the exact same way as digital ones, except the numbers are displayed slightly differently and you might have to press a button to make them appear.
Again, read them from left to right and ignore those surrounded by red.
Dial electricity meter
If you have one of these meters, you'll see a number of dials in a row. Each of these dials runs from 0 to 9, with each dial turning in the opposite direction to the one before.
Read them from left to right, noting down the number the pointer is directed towards.
If the pointer lies between two numbers, choose the lowest number. If it lies between nine and zero, note down nine and deduct a number from the dial to the left.
Ignore the very last dial on the right.
Remember, not all houses have a gas supply, so you might not need to worry about a gas meter at all. If you do have one, it will either be a dial or digital meter.
Dial gas meter
Just like with dial electricity meters, there will be a series of dials running from one to nine, that you have to read from left to right.
Again, if the pointer falls between two numbers, choose the lowest one, and if it falls between nine and zero, write down nine.
Just make sure to ignore any red dials, any dials marked as 100 per rev, and the largest dial.
Digital gas meters
Read the numbers from left to right, ignoring any that are in red or after the decimal point.
What are smart meters?
Smart meters are a new type of energy meter that the government plans to roll out as the standard across the country by 2024.
These are much easier to read than normal meters and will make consumers more aware of how much energy they're using and how to reduce this.
They're installed by your energy supplier. They'll contact you to ask if you'd like one installed, and to arrange a time for this to happen (at no extra cost to you).
Here's a list of the main functions and benefits of smart meters:
- You can see how much energy you're using through an In-Home Display
- The meter communicates your energy use directly to your supplier – no need to send them your own meter readings
- You see real-time energy usage, displayed in pounds and pence
- They bring an end to estimated billing – you're only ever billed for the energy you actually use
- They make the process of switching suppliers much quicker and easier
- You won't be charged to have a smart meter or in-home display installed.
They work in both prepayment and credit mode.
If you do opt for prepayment mode, you'll have more flexibility on how you top up (you won't have to head to the local shop), you'll be able to view your balance on the In-Home Display and you can set it to top-up automatically so you don't run out of electricity at an awkward time.
There's no legal obligation to have one installed, but if you do get offered one, they're a great way to save money on your energy bills – they give you a much better idea of how much energy you're using.
As part of the installation process, you'll be given advice on how to improve your energy efficiency, so you'll be saving cash and the environment.
When moving into a new place, have a look at the best ways to save on your internet as well as electricity and gas – here are the best student broadband deals of 2021.