With so many different gas and electricity tariffs available it can seem difficult to know which one is the best for you. In this article we'll dispel some myths and explain some of the unfamiliar language used to describe tariffs, so you know what you're getting.
There are two main types of tariff to choose from:
These tariffs will have a set price for the energy you use over a certain time period – often one to two years. Suppliers will often offer lower prices for these tariffs because you’re making a commitment to them. Some even offer some nice features when you sign up – such as our Connect+Control2 tariff which gives you a brand new Amazon Echo and a HeatSmart® thermostat.
You’ll pay the same rate for the amount of time you're on the tariff
You won't be affected by price rises
You usually get a lower price
You’re not constantly shopping around for the best deal
If energy prices go down your price will stay the same
There are sometimes fees (known as exit fees) if you want to leave your tariff earlier than the contract end date
You might be looking at a more expensive deal when your fixed rate period comes to an end
Standard variable rate
If you don’t mind prices going up or down and are prepared to shop around more regularly, a standard variable rate could be your best option.
These tariffs will track the market rate for energy and you’ll pay that plus an agreed percentage. Most companies will let you know in plenty of time if these prices change. When that happens you can decide if you’d like to switch, usually with no exit fee.
You’ll be the first to benefit from price decreases
No exit fees
Energy price rises will affect you
You’ll have to pay different amounts in line with market price changes
There are rarely any special offers or deals available
Dual fuel or single fuel?
Dual fuel means you get both gas and electricity from one supplier. Single fuel means you get just one of either gas or electricity from one supplier. So you could have two suppliers - one for gas and one for electricity. The most common combination of fuel in people’s homes is gas and electricity. Suppliers often make their deals to supply both of these. If you only want gas or electricity you might need to get in touch to see what deals are available for you.
Another thing which could limit the tariffs available to you is whether you have a prepayment, standard or smart meter.
Prepayment meters – where you use a top-up card or key – are a lot less common and deals aren’t as readily available. If you have one of these meters you’ll often only be able to get a standard variable rate tariff. As you pay up front, this only changes the amount of energy you use before your prepayment amount runs out.
Standard meters - These are the most common types of meters in the UK and won't restrict what kind of tariff you can get. They generally mean you'll get billed monthly for the amount you use or an estimate of what you use. In order to get the most accurate bill, you'll usually need to send regular meter readings to your energy supplier.
Smart meters - A smarter kind of meter that means you only pay for the exact amount of energy you use thanks to the smart meter communicating wirelessly with your supplier. So you don't have to submit meter readings with this one. Having a smart meter shouldn't affect what tariff you can get, but sometimes there are specific, additional tariffs open to you if you have a smart meter. Find out more in our smart meter section.
Make the most of online only tariffs which will often give you the best deals.
Online only tariffs mean cheaper deals because of the reduced labour cost involved in managing the tariff. Because you don't need to use call centre support and your bills are all online, it reduces the price of the tariff and makes things easier for you to manage on your terms. You can also manage your energy supply, check on your pricing and (if you don’t have a smart meter) submit readings through an app.
Direct Debit or bills
Setting up a Direct Debit makes things easy for you because you won’t have to remember to contact your supplier each time you need to pay. It’s also great for your supplier because they don’t have to do as much admin, so often you'll get cheaper energy paying this way.