Electricity, Gas and Water in the UK
We all know that moving house can be an overwhelming experience all round, connecting utilities just makes it even more complicated. There are a wide variety of options out there, and many factors to consider when choosing a supplier. The wrong choice can lead to unfair utility bills, tricky exit fees and hidden costs that the customer might not be aware of. Finding the right company that can offer a good deal in the long-term may take quite a bit of research.
Electricity & Gas – What you need to know
The first thing to remember about the electricity and gas market in the UK is that when you move into a new property you’ll always have supply – i.e. your lights and heating will be working. However, whilst this is convenient, you’ll also automatically be placed onto a ‘standard variable rate tariff’ with the chosen energy supplier of the previous occupants. These tariffs can be 30% more expensive than comparable fixed rate tariffs. This is a very favourable situation for energy suppliers because many customers don’t even realise that they are overpaying! In fact, a 2016 study found that UK consumers had were overpaying by a staggering £18.7 billion on their energy bills.
That is why, whether you’re renting or buying, switching your Gas and Electricity tariff is one of the most important things to do when moving into a new property. The average UK household can usually save £200 to £400 over 12 month period – so switching is crucial if you don’t want to overpay by staying on a standard variable rate tariff.
Another advantage of switching to a fixed rate tariff is that the unit rates will remain fixed until the contract end date. Historical data shows that energy prices tend to fluctuate and inevitably increase, so even if you are on a good standard variable rate tariff, it’s still fairly certain you’ll be looking at price rises in the near future.
Things to consider before switching your energy tariff:
- Does your property have both electricity and gas, or just electricity?
- Who is your current supplier? Is it the same for electricity and gas?
- Do you have a specialist meter in your property? (An economy 7, a prepayment meter, a smart meter, etc.)
- If you do have a prepayment meter installed – you can’t change your energy tariff, but you can contact your current energy supplier and ask them to install a regular credit meter. As of April 2016, none of the big six energy companies charge to change prepayment meters over to credit meters, they will just require that your energy account is debt free, and some may run a credit check. Contact your supplier to get the ball rolling.
- Whether you are happy paying your bills via Direct Debit. (Gives you access to all the cheapest tariffs on the market)
- How you want to receive your bills – via email or via post.
- What are the terms and conditions and the general information for the tariff you are planning to switch to. It is important to check:
- Unit rates for gas and electricity
- Standing charge for gas and electricity
- The contract length
- Conditions for exiting the tariff (exit fees, flexibility, etc.)
Some important extra information
- As soon as you move into your new property, you will have power in your household.
- Switching energy supplier usually takes 3 weeks, unless there is a reason outside the supplier’s control. You can only switch supplier when you’re actually living in the property, so you’ll usually have a small bill from the previous supplier as well.
- When the switch happens, you’ll receive receive a bill from your current supplier based on how much energy you had used during the period. After that, you will start receiving bills from your new energy supplier.
- Be aware that if you have an outstanding debt with your current supplier this may lead to delays in, or cancellation of your application.
- If you wish to cancel the contract after you’ve signed, you can do so at any point during your cooling off period, which is usually 14 days. Details of how to cancel can usually be found in your Welcome Pack and on the supplier’s website.
So what about water? Looking for a better deal?
Unfortunately, in the UK you are restricted to the water company that operates in your area. As water companies in the UK are regional suppliers, this means you’re obligate to create an account with the regional supplier if you move into area.
Although water companies in the UK offer different tariffs, all water suppliers are regulated by a governing authority to ensure consumers get a good deal. Most water suppliers use a metered service, which means you are only charged for the water you use – however, a standing charge will apply for your basic infrastructure services.
If your property isn’t yet fitted with a meter, many companies provide this service for free; some companies also allow you to switch back to a fixed rate if your meter-based costs are higher than non-metered bills over a two-year period.
If your water connection does not use a metered service, you will instead pay a set amount based on the size of your home and, in some cases, the number of people living there. Your UK water bill needs to be paid monthly for the entire year, after which it will be reset based on your average use during the previous year. This can sometimes be a better option for high water consumers.
If you have any trouble with your UK water supply, contact the local authority that supplies your water. You will find the number on bills, welcome letters and company websites.
This article has been written with help from Please Connect Me. They understand that it can be a very lengthy process to research the market and find the most suitable energy suppliers, and that’s why they’ve come up with a system to calculate the best tariff based on your postcode and house profile. Their system shows a summary of all the available suppliers for a certain address, so you can make the right choice and start saving money right away! They also offer help in registering customers to the water company that operates in your particular area completely free of charge. Just to go to their website and fill out an application form.