Cheapest gas and electricity suppliers 2018
Let's be honest, you've got better things to do with your time than spending hours setting up energy bills. Save yourself time, money and hassle with our guide.
Choosing and setting up your gas and electricity provider can feel like a minefield, but there are huge savings up for grabs when it comes to energy bills! 🙂
Before we review the best energy companies, we'll share our practical tips on landing the best deal.
8 ways to save money on gas and electricity bills
Don't pay for the previous tenants' energy!
On the day you move in, take photos of all meter readings and submit them to the current energy supplier, making it clear you've moved in.
If you don't, there's a good chance you'll receive a bill for energy used before your tenancy started.
The next priority is to switch to a cheaper tariff or supplier (continue reading!).
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 EDF's Blue+ Price Protection (our current top pick), don't have any cancellation or exit fees either (even on fixed tariffs) giving you the freedom to switch if you find a cheaper supplier.
Go for gas and electricity dual fuel tariff
Not all properties have a gas connection, but if you do then it's usually cheaper to combine both your gas and electricity bills under a dual fuel tariff with a single supplier.
The other benefit is that you'll save time and hassle by having just one single bill to pay each month, and will be dealing with just one company rather than two.
Choose an online tariff
Applying for an energy tariff with online-only billing (as opposed to paper billing) could save you around £200 a year.
It also does wonders for keeping your hallway floor tidy!
All of your bills will be handled on your online account, where you can also set up easy monthly payments, which are taken automatically.
Pay by Direct Debit
Paying your bills by Direct Debit could save you a further 10% with some suppliers.
Be aware 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.
See our best tips on how to split bills with your housemates.
Check your 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 - 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 - that's a prickly £360 bill at the end of a 12-month contract to unexpectedly have on your plate! We explain how to take readings below.
By 2020, the government plan to roll out Smart Meters as the standard across the country. These will automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier for you, 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 about how you get one now.
Consider rent with bills included
If you can find accommodation where the rent includes basic bills (gas, electricity, water and internet) then you might be able to get a good deal (as long as the rent is 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.
While 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, SWITCH, then switch again
Apologies for the capital letters but we cannot stress this enough.
Don't make the mistake of just sticking with the supplier that the house currently has when you move in - nine times out of ten you'll be able to switch to a cheaper offer.
Although some energy providers will charge a fee if you leave your contract early, legally you're now able to leave 42-49 days before your contract officially ends without being charged, so you have no excuse not to shop around a little!
Find out if you could be getting a better deal elsewhere using Energy Helpline.
Best student energy suppliers 2018
Bulb Energy (renewable + £100 bonus)
Sign up today using this special link.
Bulb are new on the scene this year, but quickly gaining loyal customers for providing 100% renewable electricity and being refreshingly transparent.
They only have a variable tariff so is subject to price hikes (which has happened recently). Having said that, the rates are typically more competitive than the 'Big Six' energy suppliers for most households.
If you're switching, Bulb will cover your exit fees, and they don't charge any themselves either if you did want to move after a price hike (or used the £100 credit).
EDF Energy (Blue+ Price Protection)
For most households, EDF Energy are currently our best buy energy supplier.
They offer great value on gas and electricity tariffs, free smart meters and customer service is good too.
We recommend EDF's Blue+ Price Protection fixed tariff to avoid suffering price hikes, and there are no cancellation fees (ideal for short term-time tenancy contracts).
EDF also promise that if you find a cheaper supplier they'll let you switch to that supplier without any exit fees!
Energy Helpline (comparison site)
So now we suggest simply using trusted comparison sites to find the cheapest energy supplier for your area.
Little known EnergyHelpline.com is our favourite when it comes to comparing energy suppliers.
This website is one of the most trusted, transparent and comprehensive comparison sites for gas and electricity tariffs and allows you to complete the whole process in a few steps.
How to take meter readings
For those new to managing household bills, energy meters aren't always the easiest things to read (or find!). If you're getting a bit stuck, we're here to guide you through…
There are three types of electricity meter: 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 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, chose the lowest number. If it lies between 9 and 0, note down 9 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 1 to 9, 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 9 and 0, write down 9.
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 intelligent energy meter that the government plan to roll out as the standard across the country by 2020.
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 whether you would like one installed, and to arrange a time for this to happen (at no extra cost to you).
Here's a list of their main functions and benefits:
- You'll be able to see how much energy you're using through an In Home Display (IHD)
- The meter will communicate your energy use directly to your supplier – no need to send them your own meter readings
- You'll see real-time energy usage, displayed in pounds and pence
- They'll bring an end to estimated billing – you'll only ever be billed for energy you actually use
- They will make the process of switching suppliers much quicker and easier
- You won't be charged to have a smart meter or IHD 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 IHD 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 tool for saving money on your energy bills by giving 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 – saving cash and the environment 🙂
Next up: get the best deal on broadband!