Don't get left out in the cold: switching energy supplier could save you €260 a year
SWITCHING energy supplier is extremely quick and easy and it can all be done online in the space of a few minutes. There's no need for any messy paperwork or to give 30 days' notice to your current provider before cancelling. In fact you don't even have to contact your current supplier to let them know you're leaving.
Out of all the household bills, this is by far the most simple to switch and could save you €267, on average, a year.
This savings are despite many energy suppliers raising their prices twice in the last 12 months.
However, if you live in a large home with three or more bedrooms, or live in a poorly insulated building, the savings will be even higher.
Recent research commissioned by the energy regulator found most householders do not realise that they must be told when their electricity or gas contract comes to an end.
People who have signed up for a discount offer have to be informed by their supplier that the deal has ended and they will return to much higher standard energy tariffs, according to the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
How to switch
Before switching you need to make sure that you're not in contract with your current energy supplier, otherwise you will be charged an early exit fee of €50 per fuel.
Most contracts last 12 months, so if you have been with your current supplier for over a year, you should be free to switch without penalty, according to Daragh Cassidy of price comparison and switching site Bonkers.ie.
Before switching you will need four key pieces of information to hand, as follows:
You will need your meter point reference number (MPRN) for electricity, and the gas point reference number (GPRN) number for gas.
Both these numbers can be found on the top of the opening page of any recent bill.
You will also need a recent meter reading.
Required too is a good estimate of how much energy you use each year, in kilowatt hours (kWh).
This information can be obtained by looking at a recent bill.
Understandably, most people won't have a clue about how much energy they use in a year so you can also input how much you spend in euro instead, according to Mr Cassidy.
Before switching you will need the name of the price plan that you are on with your current supplier. This will be on any recent bill. If you can't find it, just give your supplier a quick call to enquire.
If you have a night-saver meter, it is also handy to know how much energy you use at night as this will help you get the most accurate results based on your individual energy usage.
Once you have all this information to hand, head to a site like Bonkers.ie, input the above information and you will get a comparison of all the offers available from all 10 suppliers in the market.
Then switch to the best deal for you.
Tips for getting the best deals
The first thing to consider is choosing online billing.
Most electricity suppliers have online billing and offer discounts if you choose it instead of getting your bills in the post.
Online billing is simple, your bills are archived, you can see charts of your consumption, and you can enter meter readings online.
It is easy, less hassle, and the discounts save you money.
Another way to save is to consider choosing paying by direct debit.
Mr Cassidy explains: "Most energy suppliers will offer a discount if you choose direct debit over other payment forms.
"Paying by direct debit is less hassle and means you should never miss a payment date," he added.
Consumers have been advised not to automatically accept retention deals offered by their current supplier.
Most suppliers will offer you a retention deal at the end of your contract to encourage you not to switch and to sign up with them for another year. Although competitive, these deals are rarely the best on the market and you will usually save more by shopping around and switching to the lowest rate on the market, Mr Cassidy warned.
Some of the best deals
For dual-fuel customers, Bord Gáis is offering one of the cheapest deals on the market with a 21pc discount on its standard electricity unit rate and a 14pc discount on its standard gas price, according to Bonkers.ie.
Also competitive is Energia which is offering a 29pc discount on its standard electricity unit rate and a 28pc discount on its standard gas price for new customers.
SSE is offering new customers a 25pc discount on its standard electricity unit rate and a 20pc discount on its gas price.
Through its rewards scheme it is also offering rewards such as 10pc off day passes to Dublin Zoo.
If you are just looking to switch your electricity, then Bord Gáis is offering one of the best deals with a 21pc discount on its standard unit rate at 15.48 cent per kWh including VAT.
Flogas has one of the best deals for gas-only customers at the moment, Mr Cassidy said.
It is offering a 25pc discount on its standard unit rate for new customers with its "winter warmer" offer and almost €50 off its annual standing charge for customers who sign up through Bonkers.ie.
How to switch... electricity and gas
STEP 1 You will need your meter point reference number (MPRN) for electricity, and the gas point reference number (GPRN) number for gas.
STEP 2 You'll need to provide meter readings when you switch.
STEP 3 It takes around two weeks for a switch to complete and once it does, your old supplier will send you a closing statement, which will be based on your own meter reading. You'll need to pay that and then all your bills will come from your new supplier.
STEP 4 To find the best deals, you can use an accredited gas and electricity comparison and switching service like Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie.
Potential savings: €267
Total time: Half an hour