Keep heating costs down as cold weather bites

More than 300,000 people could see their energy bills rise just as winter begins unless they take action and move to a cheaper deal

Heater radiator on yellow wall in house. 3d image

Nearly 150 energy tariffs are due to finish this month and in December, according to research by comparison site Comparethemarket.com. There are more than 326,000 customers on these tariffs, who’ll usually automatically roll onto costly ‘default’ tariffs when their deals end. If they stay on the default tariffs, their bills will rise by an average of £114 a year.

Advertisement

Peter Earl, head of energy at Comparethemarket.com said: “As with many personal finance and essential service products, such as insurance, in energy, loyalty rarely pays. Despite the Government’s introduction of a price cap on default tariffs, the best way to save money on your energy is still switching tariffs or providers when your current tariff comes to an end.”

Don’t delay

If your tariff is due to end soon, you may be able to start shopping around for a better deal before it finishes. Victoria Arrington from energy switching site energyhelpline.com, said: “You don’t have to wait for your tariff to end to start looking for a good deal. In most cases, you will have 49 days before the tariff end date to switch to a new supplier, with no exit fees. This gives customers plenty of opportunity to take the few minutes required to look up available deals online.”
Often it is smaller, less well-known suppliers which offer the most competitive energy deals, although many people may be wary about moving to unfamiliar names given a recent spate of providers collapsing. Toto Energy last month became the 14th domestic energy supplier to cease trading in the last two years.
However, if your energy supplier does goes bust, any credit balance you have with them is protected and guaranteed by the energy regulator, which will then assign a new energy supplier.
Mark Todd, of energyhelpline.com, said: “Suppliers are being squeezed by high wholesale prices, the new lower price cap and other unexpected costs. With new tougher licensing rules on the horizon, this could have been the final nail in the coffin for yet another small supplier. However, it can be hoped that these incoming tighter standards will lead to fewer collapses in the future.”

Check your balance

Before you move energy suppliers, check whether you’re in credit with your energy supplier. If you are, this could help ease the burden of steep winter bills. According to research by MoneySuperMarket.com, over half of energy customers are in credit with their gas and electricity supplier by an average of £73.

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “After a warm summer, it’s not unusual to be in credit on your energy account. You should check whether you are by providing your supplier with an accurate, up-to-date meter reading.

Advertisement

“If you’re in credit, you’ll be entitled to claim whatever you’re owed. With a very cold winter predicted, you might want to consider whether you leave any surplus in your account – it could help to make sure that when spring arrives, you don’t end up with a hiked up direct debit or a hefty bill to bring your energy account back into credit.”