As a university student, moving from halls into private student accommodation can suddenly mean needing to require an understanding of energy bills and how best to handle them. To help you out, in this part of our guide to student bills series, we’ll perform a student bill comparison, show you how to switch energy providers and show you how to get the best deals so you can save yourself some money.
We’ll be covering:
- Cheapest Energy Suppliers
- Utilising Comparison Websites
- Using Auto Switching Energy Services
- How to switch
- Further Info and Money Saving Tips
Cheapest Energy Suppliers
Whilst most students will just gloss over their student bills and accept any old set-up, there’s inherent value and benefit for those who take the time to learn how to manage their bills. As well as being an eco-friendly move, it can also save you a good few hundred pounds each year.
If your in a rush and not concerned with learning all the ins and out, here’s the cheapest energy suppliers who offer the best value electricity and gas.
Utilising Comparison Websites
Comparison websites such as moneysupermarket.com are a great way to quickly compare energy prices based on current market values. By using a comparison website, you’ll quickly be able to see, potential savings between different services.
To perform a comparison on your student bills, simply enter the dates your tenancy will start and finish, then compare your current service to those suggested.
Another useful set of criteria to check when comparing energy supplies, is the customer satisfaction scores and green energy tariffs.
We advise utilising these comparison websites to search for the most competitive tariffs.
It may first appear that doing your own comparisons and switching directly would be the best way to get the cheapest deals, however, it’s worth mentioning, that not all energy suppliers will display the cheapest deals possible on their own websites.
Some of the best deals out there, are only available through comparison websites. In order to access these deals you’ll need to sign up directly through the comparisons site advertising the offer.
Top Comparison Sites
We recommend these comparison sites to find the best energy deals.
Using Auto Switching Energy Services
Auto-switching services are gaining a lot of popularity. These types of services will continuously compare the market for you and automatically switch you to the best energy deals available, meaning, your always saving money.
If you want to find the cheapest energy providers, with the least amount of effort, then auto switching services may be a good choice. Keep in mind you’ll likely need to pay for the service itself which is a cost you should factor in.
Before using any auto-switching services, check the following:
- The Cost of the Service – The cheaper the service the less benefits and deals it may offer. You will need to balance out cost vs savings
- Energy Suppliers and Deals – Not all energy suppliers and all deals are available with all services. Check which ones are available and most suitable based on your own needs
- Terms and Conditions – Ensure you fully understand, under what conditions, a switch in service will occur
Best Value Auto-switching Services
We recommend these auto-switching services to automate your student bills comparison.
Student Bills Comparison: How to switch?
So you’ve done your re-search and found a steal of a deal with a great energy supplier but your still not sure how to switch provider. Let us show you what you need to do.
To start with, you’ll need the following details to hand:
- Your postcode
- The name of your current energy supplier
- Your current tariff
- The tariff you wish to switch too
- Your bank account details (if planning to pay by direct debit)
How to find your Electric Supplier
To find out who your electric supplier is, you’ll first need to know the energy network.
Use this Find Energy Network tool. It will provide you with the name and telephone number of your network operator. Once you know your network operator, contact them to find out who your electric supplier is.
How to find your Gas Supplier
Use the Find My Gas Supplier tool to find your gas supplier. It will provide you with the name of your supplier and a meter point reference number, aka ‘MRPN’. Take note of the MRPN, as the supplier will use this to locate your gas meter.
Top Tip- See if there are any utility bills lying around to quickly identify who the current energy suppliers are, or ask your landlord as they may already know.
Once you have all these details, if switching directly, it’s then just a case of contacting up the energy supplier you wish to switch too.
If your going to switch using either a comparison website or auto-switching service, enter all your details and you’ll then be given a choice of tariffs to choose from. If your unsure about tariffs, keep reading as we’ll touch on this shortly.
Finalising the Switch
Once all information’s submitted and you’ve chosen your new energy supplier and tariff, the final step is to validate your agreement, confirm your switch, and your means of paying. Once everything agreed and verified.. it’s pretty much a done deal!
Top Tip – Paying via Direct Debit can save you not only money but also time, keep reading for further info on payment options.
Once complete, the switching process will now begin.
In the coming days, your new supplier will get in touch with you to confirm your switch-over date. The whole process of switching energy supplier can be fairly fast and reasonably straightforward, all in all, this can take upto 21 days.
If at any point you have a change of heart, it’s within your rights to contact your supplier and cancel within 14 days from the day you agreed to the contract. There’s no requirement to contact the former supplier, since your new supplier will be handling the switching process but it still might be worth informing your landlord.
You can expect to be switched to your new supplier without any interruption to your current electricity or gas supply or even your studies!
Further Info and Money Saving Tips
There are three types of tariffs you can choose from. These are Fixed Rate, Variable, and Economy 7.
On a Fixed Rate tariff, you will be paying the same amount per unit of gas or electricity for the remainder of the deal which typically lasts for 12 months.
For a Variable tariff, the amount you pay can fluctuate. They track wholesale prices and the cost you pay per unit can go either up or down. Your supplier is entitled to change your rate at their own deaccession but is required to provide at least one months notice before any changes can take effect.
Lastly, the Economy 7 tariff means that you will be charged variable amounts per unit of gas or electricity depending on when you use them. For example, using energy at night costs less than using the same amount of energy during the day.
What ever tariff you choose to switch too, it’s worth checking the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you cover all bases and fully understand the potential costs.
How to avoid exit fees
If your on a fixed rate tariff and plan to leave earlier than agreed, to get out of the contract, there’s usually an associated exit fee.
To avoid paying exit fees:
- Look for deals which have no exit fees
- Wait until the last 49 days of your contract, as legally you cant be charged fees
- Negotiate the exit fee when switching to a different tariff with the same supplier, some will waive the fee.
Take note that tariffs for gas supply are charged differently to tariffs for electricity supply. There are, of course, suppliers who offer both types of energy under a single contract.
The main advantage of due tariffs is that bills will be consolidated into a single payment. Some tariffs may also require an additional cost of installing a smart meter, so double check for these types of conditions before signing a contract.
Going paperless is a good way to save some money, as well as helping the environment out. Instead of receiving a paper bill in the post, which lets face it, can get annoying as they pile up in heap in the hallway, you will receive and be able to view your bills online.
Setting up Direct Debit
Choosing to pay via direct debit could save you upto 10% with some suppliers. It also saves time as the payments will be taken out automatically. Just ensure you have sufficient funds in your account to avoid late payment charges.
If you do miss any payment though, don’t worry, most providers will give you some extra time to make the payment before turning the energy off or charging you extra.
How to prevent being overcharged
To prevent being overcharged, it’s a good idea to send your supplier regular meter readings. Taking regular meeting reading helps to ensure you only pay for the energy you consume during your tenancy.
If you have a Smart Meter installed, then the meter can send the reading for you, otherwise you will need to do it manually.
Learn how to read both your gas and elasticity meter. If your not sure how to take meter readings or want to learn more about the different types of meters, check out our guides below:
Top Tip – On the first day you arrive and settle into your new student home, remember to take a picture of the metre readings. The reason for this will be explained later in the article.
Refer a friend schemes
Not only can you save some money, it’s also now possible to make some.
Quite a few suppliers offer financial incentives to both the referee and switcher. When selecting a provider check if they offer these types of rewards.
Who can change energy suppliers?
It depends on whether you are directly paying an energy company or not. If you are then, yes, you can choose your energy supplier and there is a consumer protection law that gives you that choice. Now, if your landlord pays the bills for you then it is their choice and it wont be something you need to worry about.
Your rent breakdown must include it as “bills included”. To be sure though, you should read through your tenancy agreement thoroughly and if still unsure reach out to your landlord.
Your accommodation will usually already have an assigned energy supplier before you moved in. If you are planning to make a switch, then it is a good practise to inform your landlord about it. Some tenancy agreements would even stipulate that you must revert back to the assigned energy supplier before you move out.
Student Bills Comparison – Conclusion
That’s pretty much everything and hopefully you have enough knowledge and information to carry out an effective student bill comparison strategy and save yourself some money.
When it comes to student bills there’s lots to learn and many ways to save money, so be sure to check out our other guides which form part of our student bill series.
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