When darker nights draw in and temperatures drop, many people start to give greater consideration to their energy bills. That first turn of the thermostat dial since the early part of the year never feels like a celebration. Heating, along with lights being turned on for longer leads to more energy usage and potentially higher bills.
It often feels like energy suppliers want to make sure that you feel this burden on your purse. The annual round of price hikes can feel a little cynical. This is because it tends to happen around the time of year which coincides with increased consumer demand. Many energy companies use the period just before Autumn fully kicks in to announce price hikes. The main reason is to maximise profits over the winter months at the expense of consumers.
So is the best time to switch now?
The answer to that question is almost always yes. Customer loyalty counts for very little in the energy market and taking the time to regularly compare deals is worth it.
Look for other useful information that will accompany notification of a rise in prices from your gas and electricity company. With the future prices will be an assumption of your usage over the next year. You can use this information on price comparison sites to ensure that you are on the best deal. If you aren’t, then you have all the justification you need to start the switching process.
The energy market is currently a very competitive one. This is great news for consumers and means that although some suppliers will be raising tariffs, others will be lowering them to attract new customers.
Getting the jump on price hikes
Energy suppliers are legally bound to inform you of any incoming price increases to your gas and electricity. This means that you can use the time before they take effect to consider your current deal. This is done simply by comparing the market to find a deal that works out better for you. If you have access to the figures for your annual usage of gas and electricity, make sure you use them. Doing so will produce a more accurate estimate of what you will pay from comparison sites. This information should be available on your bills and the website or App associated with your energy account.
If you are on a fixed term deal, you should receive notice in advance of it coming to an end. As well as the end date, it will include the price you will need to pay for your energy should you roll onto a variable deal. They may also offer to fix you to another deal after this and offer you a quote to do so. However, they need your expressed permission before going ahead and signing you up to another fixed deal.
Are there any times when I should stay put?
In short, yes. If you are on a fixed term contract any exit fees may outweigh the savings you might make by switching. If this is the case it is a better idea to wait until your current deal is due to expire. You can start the switching process up to 49 days before your current deal ends and it is advisable to do so. If the fixed term contract expires, you are likely to be rolled onto a more expensive variable tariff.
If you are finding your energy bills are becoming a serious burden on your finances, then switching your supplier may not be enough to solve your problem. In these circumstances your first action should be to contact your supplier and explain the situation. Options are available such as installing a pre-paid meter, or checking to see if you are eligible for the Winter Fuel Allowance or other government scheme. Trying to move the problem isn’t solving it, but you are not alone and help is available.
Regularly check the market
Because the energy market is so competitive right now, it is unlikely that the company you are with will be able to offer you the best deal forever. Variables such as localised costs, investments, market share and profits all help to set the tariffs of the various suppliers. A company’s income and expenditure will be changing all of the time. That low price they offered you 12 months ago, may simply not be achievable today. This makes it important to carry out regular checks through comparison sites to see how good your deal is in today’s market. Keeping an eye on the market is especially worthwhile if you are currently on a variable deal. These will generally have no exit fees attached and there is no limit as to how many times you can switch suppliers.