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Monday 24 April 2017

Don’t suffer an electric shock

Charlie Weston sheds light on savings to be had from switching suppliers

LAST year was a tough year for energy customers. Huge bills from the big freeze put a real strain on household budgets and forced thousands of customers into arrears. In August, electricity prices started going up and by October the price of gas had rocketed by over 20pc.

Already hard-pressed customers can expect energy bills to be €250 more than they were last year. With prices so high, more and more households will need to find ways to keep their bills under control. We asked Simon Moynihan, of price comparison website bonkers.ie, to outline some ways to keep bills under control.

The best deals

Most of us know that switching suppliers is the quickest and easiest way to cut the cost of gas and electricity. However, more than half of Irish households have never switched for better electricity or gas prices.

Electricity

An average customer on ESB Electric Ireland's standard rate can expect to pay €1,116 per year for electricity. Switching to the cheapest deal will net savings of around €160, which is 14pc.

Airtricity's Home Electricity direct debit and ebill deal is currently the cheapest tariff available but it does require a two- year contract. Contract-shy customers can save almost as much by switching to Bord Gais's cheapest rate.

Gas

Bord Gais's prices are still set by the regulator, making them the most expensive in the market, and an average Bord Gais customer can expect to spend €876 per year.

Flogas's direct debit discount tariff is currently the cheapest option available and will save customers €113.

Dual fuel

For many customers, the convenience of having both gas and electricity together with one company makes sense and Airtricity currently offers the cheapest bundles. Customers could save up to €240 per year but it requires a two-year contract.

Keeping them apart

It is slightly cheaper to get gas and electricity from separate suppliers. Signing up to the best deals from Airtricity and Flogas will save around €275 per year.

If you do switch, there are even more ways to keep a lid on your energy outlay. Here are some of them:

Read your own meter

Your meter is read four times a year and that's only if the reader can get to it. Depending on the supplier, estimated readings can vary substantially from actual usage. It's a good idea to submit a meter reading yourself whenever you receive your bill as this will ensure you only pay for what you use. Suppliers have made this extremely easy. You can submit readings online, by text, email and phone.

Your money is better off earning interest in your bank account than in your supplier's!

Get a monitor

Electricity monitors cost around €40 and are available from a wide range of retailers.

They are simple to set up and have a monitor that can tell you in real time how much electricity your house is using and the cost. They are great for identifying what uses the most energy. Manufacturers reckon that once you are armed with this information, you'll save more than 10pc on your electricity bills. They are not suited to many apartments because the meter and the monitor need to be close to one another. Currently, customers signing up to Airtricity can receive a free electricity monitor.

Consider a nightsaver meter

If you think you can move more than 20pc of your overall electricity usage to the middle of the night, a Nightsaver meter is a great way to save money.

ESB Networks will install one for free and any electricity used overnight is charged at around half price. You'll pay more for your daytime unit rate and your standing charge will be higher, but your savings will increase the more energy you use at night.

This is a good option if you can use timers to heat water and run appliances overnight.

Service your boiler

A regularly serviced gas boiler runs more efficiently and uses less gas to heat your water and your home. Prices for a gas boiler service vary, but ESB Electric Ireland is running a special introductory rate of €69, which is great news because the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland reckons you'll save €150 on your gas bills with your boiler running in tip-top condition.

Grants for your home

Making your home more efficient will save on energy bills. If you're thinking of improving your insulation, installing a new boiler or upgrading heating controls, you may be entitled to a grant for some of the costs. See www.seai.ie/grants for more details.

Irish Independent Supplement

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