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A guide to students’ gas and electric bills

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Paying your energy bills will never feature as one of the main draws of going to university. But figuring out who is the cheapest student gas and electricity supplier should be pretty much at the top of your uni to-do list.

There aren’t any attractive energy deals available right now. Even so, it’s worth keeping an eye on the energy marketplace, and looking for ways to cut your energy bills.

Group of students looking at a laptop together

Switching energy providers

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  • Choose a deal you're happy with and we'll complete the switch for you.

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Quick energy jargon buster for students

Do you know your kWs from your Economy 7 or your fixed rate tariffs from your variable rates? Here’s a run-down of the most common, and useful, energy-related terms you might come across when navigating your way through energy bills.

  • Dual fuel: a plan that combines your electricity and gas supply.
  • Economy 7: an energy plan that sees you charged 2 different rates for your usage - a more expensive one for day use, a cheaper one for night use.
  • Energy Price Guarantee: the government’s pledge to cap the amount energy companies can charge their customers for each unit of energy.
  • Fixed rate: with this option, you’re locked into a deal that ensures your unit price for energy doesn't change for the duration of your plan.
  • kW: a kilowatt is the unit of electricity that’s expended to power your household appliances. It’s exactly 1,000 watts.
  • kWh: this is a kilowatt hour. It’s a measurement of the amount of energy an appliance uses over the course of time. It gives you an idea of which appliances are more expensive to run.
  • Prepayment meter: rather than pay a monthly or quarterly bill, with a prepayment meter you buy your energy on a pay-as-you-go basis from local shops or the Post Office.
  • Tariffs: the plan that details how energy providers charge their customers for their gas or electricity.
  • Variable rate: with this rate the amount you're charged per kW used isn’t fixed but changes in line with the amount the energy company is charged by their supplier. In difficult economic times such as these, variable rates can be subject to sudden rises.

How do I know who my current energy supplier is in my new student house?

If you move into your university’s halls of residence there’s a good chance your energy bills are included in your rent. But this almost certainly won’t be the case if you rent privately.

In most private rents, you need to find out whether the property has gas and electric or just electricity, and who provides each energy supply.

Your landlord should be able to tell you who your energy suppliers are. If they can’t, or won’t pass on this information you need to do a little digging. Either way, let your student accommodation liaison representative at the university know if your landlord is uncooperative.


How to find your gas supplier

The easiest way to establish who provides your gas is to visit the Find My Supplier website and enter your postcode.

Alternatively, call the Meter Number Helpline on 0870 608 1524 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company's access charge). Be sure to get the Meter Point Reference Number for your property.


How to find your electricity supplier

To find your electricity supplier use the Energy Networks Association postcode search tool. You can then find your provider by contacting the company operating in your region.

You should also contact MPAS, which is the Meter Point Administration Service. MPAS should confirm who’s registered to supply electricity to your home and issue you a 21-digit Meter Point Administration number. You need this number when contacting your supplier about your energy bill.


How do I manage student gas and electric bills when living in a shared property?

It’s easy to divvy up jobs when you move into a shared accommodation, with one person looking after the vacuuming, another the kitchen. In reality, these good intentions often fall away quickly. This is part of the give-and-take of student life and not worth getting too stressed about.

But there are 2 areas you need to ensure the household agrees on and sticks to: paying the rent and paying the energy bills.

In many student set-ups 1or 2 housemates to agree to collect all the flatmates’ contributions. They then put this into an account that’s been opened purely to pay the rent and the bills. The risk for this person is they might be pursued by the landlord or energy company if someone doesn’t pay up on time.

One way around this is to set up a joint account in the names of all housemates. Each peorson then sets up direct debits to cover the rent and energy bills.

Given it might be difficult to estimate your usage, ask your energy companies what the typical cost is and budget for this, plus 5%. Be prepared to up your contributions if your energy company signals price increases.

You can also use bill-paying apps, such as Split The Bills and Glide. These companies take a regular payment from each housemate and then set up all of the utilities for that household.


What type of meter does the student property have?

There’s no one standard type of meter. Depending on the age of the system in your student accommodation you could have:

  • A dial meter, which looks like a series of clocks, but numbered 1 to 9
  • A digital meter, which has a numeric display
  • A smart meter, which has a full digital display

Meters tick over as you consume energy. Every now and then you’ll be asked to provide a reading or let a representative from your energy company record the reading to produce a bill. But there are 2 key exceptions.

  • With smart meters, the device feeds live readings to the energy company so there’s no need to take readings.
  • With prepayment meters you need to insert a key or enter code to the meter to get energy. You can buy energy top-ups at local newsagents, grocers and the Post Office.

Prepayment meters are the most common form of meter in student accommodation. It’s arguably the easiest to manage – as you can’t get in debt because your energy supply will be cut off if you run out of credit.

Prepayment meters aside, you pay for your energy by direct debit or get a bill in the post.


Should students switch energy?

The need to cut costs where ever possible is drummed into all students before they’ve even had a chance to attend their first lecture. But this frugal mindset has its limits when it comes to energy.

Currently, searching for a cheaper alternative to your existing energy provider is likely to prove a fruitless exercise. Almost all the decent tariffs have been withdrawn as suppliers struggle with the cost of living crisis.

This isn’t an excuse to bury your head in the duvet, as things can change almost overnight. If you sign up to our Get Switch Ready service we’ll let you know as soon as the market shifts and good energy deals return.


How do I switch energy supplier?

It may not be the time to go leaping into a new energy contract (if you’re on a contract rather than using a prepayment meter). But when the chance to move to a cheaper tariff pops up you should have the following at your fingertips:

  • Your full address, postcode included
  • Your bank details
  • The name of your current energy supplier and tariff
  • A description of where you’re living, for example the type of property, number of rooms and tenants

It could take up to 3 weeks to switch provider, so be prepared for a wait.


Tips for students to help save money with gas and electric bills

You might not be able to switch energy tariffs, but there’s a lot you can do to keep your energy consumption to a minimum. For example, you could:

Wrap up: Don’t walk around in a T-shirt with the heating on when a cosy jumper would keep you warm.

Communal cooking: Try to coordinate your household cooking so the hob and the oven in particular are being used at the same time by all student chefs.

Use LED lighting: If a lightbulb blows, replace it with an energy-efficient LED bulb. You can pick these up for as little as £2 and they pay for themselves in next to no time.

Fill up your appliances: It’s far more energy-efficient to coordinate your efforts and only use washing machines and dishwashers when they’re full.


A word of warning

Your landlord has a responsibility to ensure you’re safe. You should have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in your accommodation. If you don’t insist on having one, especially if you have a gas boiler or an open fire at your digs, it could post a considerable risk.

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