Saturday, 6 March 2010

Five ways you can hit back at the greedy energy giants

1: Switch supplier

This should be straightforward and can be done over the phone or online - yet 12 million households have never bothered.

The internet has made searching for a cheaper deal easier. Our sister website,, can help you to make average annual savings of £263. Where a household has never switched before, the savings should be far higher.

'Allow about six weeks for the transfer to complete,' says Mark Todd, managing director at, which powers This is Money's switching facility.

2: Consider newcomers

New smaller firms, such as OVO and First Utility, are grabbing market share from the big six - British Gas, EDF, Eon, npower, Scottish and Southern and ScottishPower.

First Utility has undercut many of the big players. It is also innovative, offering customers in the Midlands smart-meter technology since last September. Smart meters attach to existing gas and electricity meters to give an exact reading of usage, which is transmitted back to First Utility.

3: Seek a dual-fuel deal

If your gas and electricity is supplied by different companies, you can probably save by moving to a dual-fuel package. All companies offer dual-fuel as a standard tariff as opposed to an online-only deal.

4: Go online and pay by direct debit

The biggest savings are to be made by people prepared to take a dual-fuel online deal and pay by direct debit. According to, a household paying its bill quarterly on receipt of a bill will save on average between £200 and £300 a year by switching to an online direct debit tariff. British Gas has the cheapest online deal for households with average energy consumption, while ScottishPower and EDF are among the best for high users. Npower is competitive for homes with low energy use.

There have been problems with direct debit payments being set too high and companies holding on to customers' overpaid cash.

5: Consider a fixed rate

Almost all energy companies offer fixed-rate tariffs, which can suit those households that are worried about rising costs and need to budget. Yet Todd says that if energy prices are set to fall it may be worth waiting.

Help for the vulnerable

Pensioners and households on low incomes may be eligible for help with their energy bills.

Energy companies are required by law to provide 'social tariffs' to help their most vulnerable customers. These tariffs must be at least equal to the provider's cheapest deal. There are also State-funded grants and money available from energy providers to help lower-income households make energy-saving improvements to their homes.

One of the best known is Warm Front, which provides grants of up to £3,500 to eligible households in England. Similar schemes operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Money is available for loft insulation, draught-proofing and cavity wall insulation. To find out more, go to or call 0800 316 2805.

The Government's boiler scrappage scheme still has funds available. Households with a G-rated boiler (the oldest and least efficient) can get £400 towards the cost of a new, more efficient model and its installation. For more on this and other energy savings ideas, visit

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