9 min read

How to beat the energy price hikes

Andre Spiteri
30 May 2018

60% of British households pay “significantly more” for their energy than they have to. But it doesn't have to be this way. Find out how you can pay less in 2018.

As of the 30th May, all of the Big Six energy firms have announced significant price hikes for customers. So now that prices have gone up across the board, is there anything you can do to beat the energy price hikes? Follow these 4 steps to cut your energy bills and beat the rising prices.

1. Switch and save

With all the news about energy price hikes, you might be thinking this step no longer applies. But switching tariffs can still usher in some pretty big savings.

A lot of people are put off by switching because they think it’s a hassle, or that they’ll have to spend some time without power while the switch takes place. But this isn’t how switching works. Your new supplier will handle everything, and there’s no interruption of service.

If you're on a standard tariff:

Most of the price increases have been for customers on the 'standard variable rate', which is the rate that an energy company charges after any introductory rates end. Most cheap energy deals only last for a fixed period. When they expire (usually after one or two years) you’re often automatically switched to the standard variable tariff, which is your supplier’s default tariff. Typically this will be much more expensive. So by switching to a different supplier, you can make the most of their cheaper introductory rates.

According to Ofgem, the British energy regulator, being on the ‘standard variable’ tariff is one of the main reasons people pay too much for their energy. In fact, it can be as much as £109 a year more expensive than your supplier’s cheapest deal.

If you did want to stick to the same provider, then it's worth calling them up and asking if they have any better deals available. If they know that you are thinking of switching, they may offer you a better rate.

How to switch the easy way (using ClearScore)
We've partnered with energyhelpline to search the market to find you the best deal available on your gas and electricity.

We take into account your area and your recent usage, meaning you can compare prices on plans that suit you. Once you've picked a plan, your new supplier will ask for a meter reading close to the switching date, and your old supplier will send a final bill when the switch is done.

And that's it. See if you could save here.

If you're on a fixed rate tariff:

Even if you’re not on the standard variable tariff, it could be worth shopping around so you're ready to switch when your current rate ends. You'll most likely have to pay an exit fee if you switch whilst you're still on your fixed-rate tariff unless you are within the last 49 days of your tariff. During this period you are permitted to switch supplier without penalty.

If you’re on a prepayment meter:

If you're on a pre-paid tariff (where you 'top-up' your meter using tokens, a pre-pay card or a key) you could have a lot to gain from switching. Prepaid tariffs are usually far more expensive than credit tariffs. There’s also less choice. So, if you have a prepaid meter, it’s worth seeing if you could switch to a standard meter. This will open up a whole new world of money-saving opportunities.

Find out how much you can save on your energy bills on ClearScore

Which supplier should you switch to?

When it comes to switching, you're most probably going to opt for the cheapest. But if the offered rates are quite similar, you could check how they rate for things like sustainability or customer satisfaction.

The “Big 6” energy suppliers in the UK — British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE — are perhaps the most obvious choices. These all allow you to switch for free and provide energy to the majority of the country. But they are also the providers who have all announced significant price hikes in recent months.

There are many independent energy suppliers operating in the UK who may be able to offer you a cheaper deal. It’s worth looking at a few independent energy suppliers to what’s on offer. With over 60 suppliers on the market, using a price comparison website greatly simplifies this process.

Whichever tariff you opt for, bear in mind that you might be credit checked. If you have a lower credit score the tariff you're offered may vary.

2. Avoid dual fuel tariffs

How you switch can also make a difference to your bills.

Energy suppliers used to offer discounted rates on dual fuel tariffs — that is, when you buy both your gas and electricity from them. But alongside the price hikes, each of the Big Six suppliers has removed the incentive to get a dual tariff.

And on research conducted by Which? they also found that getting gas and electricity from different suppliers was £21 a year cheaper than the cheapest dual fuel deal.

Want a quick fix?
You could cut your bill by:

  • Going paperless

  • Paying by fixed monthly direct debit

  • Giving regular meter readings

3. Keep the cold out

The next step to beating the energy price hikes is to bring your usage down. If your home feels cold even though you keep the heating on quite high, there might be an issue with the insulation. Good insulation keeps your house warmer, which means you won’t have to turn up the heating as much or keep it on for so long.

You may be able to get free or subsidised insulation through the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) initiative. Whether you’re eligible will depend on one or more of the following:

  • Where you live

  • How much you could save by installing insulation

  • Whether you’re taking certain government benefits

Which? has a handy list of ECO participants, what they offer and who’s eligible here.

You don’t need to be a customer to speak to a supplier about an ECO grant. However, the scheme is only open up to September 2018, so it’s best to look into it as soon as possible.

4. Run your home more efficiently

At the end of the day, how much you pay is largely determined by what rate you're on. But even if you decide to switch, or even as a quick fix, you can still lower your energy bills (to a lesser extent), by making small changes around the house:

  • Use heavy curtains and draught-blocking strips to keep the cold out. The trick is to draught-proof not just the obvious spaces like gaps around windows or under doors, but also areas such as keyholes and cracks around pipework and switches.

  • Put reflectors behind your radiators to reflect back heat you’d otherwise lose through the walls.

  • Load your washing machine to full capacity and use a lower temperature, such as 40ºC or even 30ºC.

  • Avoid putting clothes to dry on the radiator, as this makes the boiler work harder. Always hang clothes on a line or clothes horse, and air-dry whenever possible.

In a nutshell:
  • Even though the 'Big 6' energy firms have all announced significant price hikes, switching suppliers or tariffs is still the most effective way to save on your energy bills.

  • Your new supplier handles the switch and you won’t ever lose your energy supply.

  • Speak to one of the “Big 6” about free insulation under the ECO scheme. You don’t necessarily have to be on benefits — or even a customer — to take advantage.

  • Small changes around the home and adjustments to how you use appliances can also make a difference.

by Andre Spiteri

Andre is a former lawyer turned financial writer. Andre has written this article especially for ClearScore.

ClearScore exists to make your finances simple.
We offer a free service where you can handle everything to do with credit in one place. In your ClearScore account, you can see your credit score and the full details of your credit report. Your credit cards, mortgages, mobile phone contracts, loans, overdrafts and utilities all on the record. Our goal is to make ClearScore as simple, calm and straightforward as possible. Money is stressful enough.