Saturday 3 December 2016

Cut your electricity and gas bills by €700

If you've been with the same supplier for three years then it's time to change

Published 30/10/2016 | 02:30

You could still be paying over the odds for your electricity or gas, however, if you haven't taken a few simple steps. Here's how to slash your energy bills by €700 over the next year.
You could still be paying over the odds for your electricity or gas, however, if you haven't taken a few simple steps. Here's how to slash your energy bills by €700 over the next year.

Another energy price war could be about to erupt, after Flogas became the latest supplier to announce a price cut. Flogas will reduce its gas prices for all customers by 3pc from the start of December. This comes after a series of price cuts from most of the big energy players.

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You could still be paying over the odds for your electricity or gas, however, if you haven't taken a few simple steps. Here's how to slash your energy bills by €700 over the next year.

Switch: Save €450

You could save €450 or more a year on your electricity and gas by switching to a cheaper supplier. Should you have been with the same provider for two or more years (or even as little as a year), you may be able to get a better deal elsewhere. Electricity discounts of as much as 32pc are up for grabs - while gas discounts of up to 20pc are available. It is new customers who get the best deals, so be prepared to move if you've been with the same company for between one and three years - or more. (Flogas is the exception as it will renew a discount for you when your original contract expires - as long as you enter a new contract).

The best discounts are offered to new customers who pay their bills by direct debit, receive their bills online and who sign a contract for at least a year - so be ready to do all these things. You may also have to sign up to a Budget plan, where the cost of your energy is evenly spread out throughout the year.

You may secure a better discount through a price-comparison website such as Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie than by going direct to an energy company. For example, one of the best electricity offers is the 32pc discount from Energia - but this is only available on Bonkers.ie and Switcher.ie. With this offer - Energia's Clever Electricity plan - your electricity bill for the year would come to €919.30, according to Bonkers.ie. That's assuming you're an urban customer who uses the same amount of electricity a year as the average household (5,300 units). You could easily pay €250 more a year for your electricity with another supplier that offers a lower (or zero) discount.

Should you not go through Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie for Energia's Clever Electricity plan, you'll pay €131 more a year for your electricity because the discount is lower if you go to Energia directly, at 19pc.

Similarly, you can get a 25pc electricity discount with SSE Airtricity - but only if you go through Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie.

Electric Ireland offers the cheapest gas deal (with its 5pc or 5.5pc discount and €150 cashback offer), followed by Flogas (with its 20pc discount), assuming your gas usage is about average. Your gas bills could be as much as €200 more expensive a year elsewhere. Remember you will usually only get the value of a cashback deal for one year - so move elsewhere once the year is up.

Most suppliers offer discounts to existing customers - but these discounts are usually a fraction of the ones available to new customers. "You will almost certainly get a retention deal from your supplier if your account is in good standing - but the deal is never usually as good as the one you'll get as a new customer," says Simon Moynihan, co-founder of Bonkers.ie.

Insulate your walls: Save €185

"In a typical home, most of the heat is lost through the walls, so improving the insulation on the walls will save you money on your energy bills," says Eoin Clarke, managing director of Switcher.ie. You will face upfront costs to insulate your home of course. The insulation bill could be anything from €700 to €20,000, depending on the type of walls.

"Insulation can be pumped into cavity walls relatively easily," says Clarke. It is this cavity-wall insulation that could cost between €700 and €1,000. "However, if you have solid walls (common in older homes), you'll need internal or external insulation, which is more expensive," says Clarke. "Internal insulation on an average-sized home will cost from €7,000, while external insulation could cost up to €20,000 and may require planning permission."

You'll save between 15pc and 20pc on your heating bills with wall insulation, according to Clarke. This could put between €139 and €185 a year back into your pocket - assuming you have an average gas bill of €924. So the savings you make should eventually pay for the cost of the insulation - as long as the insulation bill hasn't run into the tens of thousands.

Get a Nightsaver meter: Save €30

Although electricity costs half as much during the night with a Nightsaver meter as it does during the day, the savings with such a meter aren't as phenomenal as you might expect. You pay a higher standing charge for a Nightsaver meter than a standard meter - and this will eat into any savings you make on electricity consumption charges.

The standing charge on a Nightsaver meter could be €50 more a year than a standard meter. Furthermore, you're typically charged more for the electricity you use during the day with a Nightsaver meter than a standard meter.

You could still save €30 a year on your electricity by switching to a Nightsaver meter though should your family's electricity usage be about average - but the savings could be much smaller if you're living in the country.

Let's say that you use the same amount of electricity a year as the average household. You get a Nightsaver meter and switch 30pc of your electricity consumption to the night. Should you be an electricity customer of Bord Gais Energy who is being charged for electricity at the standard rate, you'll save €31 a year with Nightsaver if you live in the city - but you'll only save €10 a year if you're a rural customer.

Should you be an electricity customer of SSE Airtricity who qualifies for the company's 20pc electricity discount, you'd save about €27 a year with a Nightsaver meter if you live in the city - and about €24 if you live in the country.

The savings will be higher if you use more electricity than the average household - or if you move more than 30pc of your electricity consumption to the night. Be realistic, however, about how much of your electricity usage you can switch to the night.

"If you can move at least 30pc of your electricity consumption to the night, you'll save money with a Nightsaver meter," says Moynihan. "It's now much easier to run appliances overnight as most modern appliances have built-in timers."

To hit your 30pc target, heat your hot water and run your washing machines, dryers and dishwashers overnight, says Moynihan.

It's free to move from a standard meter to a Nightsaver meter, but should you decide to move back to a standard meter, you will be charged for doing so. So before switching to Nightsaver, do the sums and check if you'll make any meaningful savings by doing so.

Move to the city: Save up to €54

Rural dwellers pay as much as €54 more a year in electricity standing charges than their urban counterparts. Those with Nightsaver meters are penalised most. Energia has a standing charge of €251.88 for rural customers with a Nightsaver meter - €54 more than the €198 charge paid by their urban cousins. Electric Ireland's standing charge is €197.61 for city dwellers with a Nightsaver meter, but rural dwellers pay €248.61 - €51 more.

Electric Ireland charges its rural customers €46.50 more a year in standing charges for a standard electricity meter than it does its urban customers, while Energia charges its rural customers €43 a year more. Bord Gais charges its rural customers €38 more for a standard meter and €47 more for a Nightsaver meter. As well as having higher standing charges for rural customers, Bord Gais charges such customers more for a unit of electricity than it does its urban customers. Bord Gais is the only major electricity supplier (that is, of Electric Ireland, Bord Gais, SSE Airtricity and Energia) to do so.

Suppliers argue that rural standing charges are higher because it costs more to supply electricity to properties further from the network. That's small comfort to anyone in the countryside struggling to chop their bills.

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