Choosing the right energy tariff
Before you switch energy provider or tariff, it’s a good idea to look at all the different types of tariffs available. Each gives you different options, so it’s important to choose one that best suits your needs.
If you want the cheapest option
It’s usually best to choose a 'fixed’ or 'capped’ tariff if you don’t mind signing a contract for a set period - usually 12 months.
The cost of your energy won’t go up for the length of your contract, so your bills only change if you use more or less energy.
It’s a good idea to choose one of these tariffs if you find it difficult to budget - your bills will generally be the same each month if you pay by Direct Debit.
Only sign up if you plan to stay on the tariff for the length of the contract. You’ll normally need to pay a fee if you want to change supplier or tariff early.
If you plan to move soon
You can get a ‘standard’ or ‘variable’ tariff if you don’t want to be tied into a contract. This means you can switch to a different tariff or supplier to get a better deal at any point without being charged.
These tariffs are often more expensive than fixed deals.
If you think you might struggle to pay your bills or you find it hard to budget, it’s better to sign up to a ‘fixed’ tariff if you can.
If you have a smart meter
Before you decide to switch, it’s a good idea to contact your new supplier to check if your smart meter will still work the same. For example, with some suppliers you might need to send meter readings yourself.
If you use your smart meter in ‘prepayment mode’, you’ll usually need to top up with your new supplier once you’ve switched. Your old supplier will refund you any remaining credit.
Contact your new supplier if you have questions about switching with a smart meter.
If you use most of your energy at night
You can get a ‘multi rate’ or ‘economy’ tariff - this means you’ll pay less for energy you use overnight, and more during the day.
This is useful if you work nights, or have electric storage heaters, as these ‘charge up’ at night.
These tariffs are usually only worth it if you deliberately use a lot of energy at night.
If you have a prepayment meter
You’ll usually be restricted to ‘prepayment tariffs’ - this means you pay for your energy before you use it. Even the cheapest prepayment tariff will cost you more than the cheapest direct debit tariff, and there aren’t as many to choose from.
If you're not in debt to your supplier, consider whether a prepayment meter is right for you. You might be better off switching to a normal meter and paying monthly. With a prepayment meter, you could be left without energy if you pay late.
If you want eco friendly energy
You can choose a ‘green tariff’ if you want your energy to come from renewable supplies like wind or solar. These tariffs are usually more expensive but reduce your carbon footprint.
If you’re on a green tariff, your supplier has to tell you:
- how much of each kind of renewable energy they generate
- if they contribute money to environmental schemes on your behalf
If you generate your own energy
If you produce your own energy from renewable sources, for example by using solar panels or a wind turbine, you could potentially sell any excess energy you produce to your supplier through a ‘feed-in tariff’.
The Energy Saving Trust has more information about feed-in tariffs.