When's the best time to switch?
Switching energy supplier is one of those decisions which we sometimes struggle with. With more than 50 companies supplying domestic gas and electricity in the UK, prices are constantly changing.
Old tariffs are withdrawn, and new tariffs introduced every month, so the choice can be overwhelming. For many, unsure which tariff to choose, or even which supplier to pick, let alone when to switch, it seems easier to ‘just leave it for now’.
But when should you get serious about switching?
For some, figuring out when to switch your gas and electricity can be confusing. This is where we come in.
While you can switch and save money at pretty much any time, when your household circumstances change there's normally the possibility to pay less for your energy. You might find the best time to switch is one of the following:
When you haven't switched for a year or more
If you signed up for a cheaper fixed-term deal, it’ll guarantee prices for a fixed period of time, often a year to 18 months.
Once you reach the end of your fixed term, you’ll move onto your supplier’s standard variable tariff (SVT), also known as a default tariff.
While default tariffs are limited by the energy price cap imposed by Ofgem, they're normally more expensive than many other tariffs available.
So it’s likely you can save money by switching gas and electricity to an alternative tariff.
In the autumn
Because you use less energy during the summer months you can be lulled into a false sense of security about your energy costs.
Once the heating goes on, you can quickly move from a situation where you’ve got credit on your energy account, to one where you owe your energy supplier money.
By switching to a cheaper deal before the winter sets in, you’ll end up paying less money during the dark, cold, high-usage months. Opting for a fixed-term tariff offers certainty about how much you’ll pay for each unit of energy for the length of the fix.
When you suspect prices might rise
If you’re on a variable tariff, the price you pay for your energy could rise at any time.
There are many things that can cause this to happen:
- Instability in the supply and availability of energy
- Political and social unrest
- Extreme weather conditions
- A rise in the level of the energy price cap set by Ofgem.
Switching to a fixed tariff locks the price you pay for each unit of energy for a period of time. This is usually a year or two, but can sometimes be for up to five years.
So if there’s an increase in the cost of producing gas or electricity, you aren't affected by any consequent price increases.
49 days (or fewer) before your deal ends
It should take a maximum of 21 days to switch energy supplier if your chosen supplier is signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee.
Ofgem rules mean that your switching window opens 49 days before your current fixed tariff's end date. During this time you can’t be charged any exit or cancellation fees.
So rather than wait for the end of this period and have to pay for an inflated standard variable tariff, you should start a switch during your switching window.
This way you make sure that you’re in control of your energy price at all times.
When you move house
When you move house, you’ll need to get in touch with your current supplier to let them know you're moving. They'll likely offer to supply your energy at your new address as well.
Before you accept this offer, it's worth getting an energy quote on your new address to find out if there’s a cheaper deal available.
After all, since you signed up for your current deal, things will likely have moved on and cheaper tariffs may have come on to the market.
It's also better to make the change before you move. The weeks after the move will likely be packed with jobs to do and switching energy supplier might slip your mind.
Why pay more than you need when getting a quote now could take a task off your to-do list for the next 12 months or more?
When a life event happens
Retirement, childbirth or other life events can change the way you consume energy.
For example, when you retire, you’ll suddenly be spending a lot more time at home. Your energy use is likely to rise correspondingly, particularly during the daytime.
You might be on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff and find your energy use during the most expensive daytime hours increases.
A child leaving home to go to university would also affect your household’s energy usage. Just imagine all the lights that won’t be left on, or the smaller lower amount of washing you’ll be doing!
Paying off a supplier debt
So for whatever reason you built up a debt with your supplier. This gave them the ability to stop you from switching to a cheaper tariff until your debt was repaid.
However, once you repay the debt, make sure you shop around for a cheaper deal. By paying less for each unit of energy you use, hopefully you’ll avoid the same situation happening again
It costs nothing to check
There are so many factors that can affect the amount of energy you use and the amount you pay for it. That's why it's worth keeping on top of your energy contract and keep checking to see if you can get a better deal.
The actual gas and electricity you get is the same no matter which supplier you're with, so the only differences between companies are price and service.
Many experts recommend you compare gas and electricity prices at least once every six months. But if any of these situations apply to you, why not spend five minutes now to see if you could save money on your energy bills.