It's easy to switch for a better deal and well worth it
IN what is now an unwelcome tradition, home energy prices go up in October – just in time for winter. This October, as in 2012, and 2011, all four gas companies increased prices.
Gas prices have actually gone up by a staggering 35pc in little more than two years, says Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie.
This means that average households need to find €21 extra every month to keep their homes warm compared with 2011.
Electricity prices have gone up by a similar amount over the past couple of years too.
Despite this, the majority of Irish households have not switched suppliers for cheaper energy, or contacted their own suppliers to ask for better deals.
It is worth looking for a better deal, Mr Moynihan says. For households that have an electricity supply and gas supply, savings of more than €250 a year are available by taking advantage of the best deals compared with paying standard rates.
These savings are available to most households, and six out of seven energy customers could save by signing up to a better deal.
So what is holding them back? Well, according to Mr Moynihan there are many good reasons why people don't change. Here are a few reasons why you should consider switching.
HOME BENEFITS PACKAGE
Older electricity and gas customers are usually in receipt of the Home Benefits Package. This deal includes a monthly payment of €35 from the Department of Social Protection towards electricity or gas bills. It is usually paid directly to Electric Ireland or Bord Gais.
This benefit is very welcome by those that receive it, but it is also something that prevents people from looking for a better deal because customers worry that they might lose the benefit if they switch suppliers, according to the Bonkers.ie boss.
In fact, if you are in receipt of the electricity allowance or the natural gas allowance, your entitlement remains the same regardless of the supplier. It will just be paid directly to you instead of your supplier if you switch.
"You'll need to contact the Department of Social Protection to arrange this, but the good news is that switching can be like adding an extra €10 or €20 per month to the value of the allowance," Mr Moynihan says.
HAPPY WITH SUPPLIER
Many households have been with their supplier for a long time and see no reason to change. Mr Moynihan says this is understandable.
But just because you want to stay with your supplier doesn't mean that you have to pay top prices too.
Electric Ireland (formerly the ESB), for example, has a deal which is designed to reward existing customers and it can offer savings of up to 10pc off unit rates.
The deal is called ValueReward, but you have to ask for it or sign up to it using an online service like Bonkers.ie.
Electric Ireland will not just give it to you. It's well worth asking, though, because it can save an average household €100 in a year on electricity costs, Mr Moynihan says.
Unfortunately, Bord Gais can't offer discounts for loyal gas customers as it is not able to set its own gas prices yet, so customers looking for a better gas deal will have to switch for now.
INTERRUPTION TO SUPPLY
Switching supplier does not mean that the electricity or the gas will be cut off, and technicians do not need to visit your home.
Changing supplier just means that your bill will come from a new company.
"At Bonkers.ie we've been helping customers to find better energy deals for almost four years and we have not yet come across a single household that was cut off as a result of switching," Mr Moynihan says.