Don't get left out in the cold with price hikes
Following price-increase warnings for the coming year, now is the perfect time to lock down deals with a new energy provider, writes Charlie Weston
Housebuilders have been warned to act now to avoid paying more for electricity and gas next year, when prices are expected to increase.
The onset of what is likely to be colder weather means consumers should lock into deals now, experts said.
Prices were cut a number of times last year, in a move Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers said meant there was a price war going on.
However, higher oil prices and wholesale gas prices are set to feed into higher energy costs for households in 2017.
Despite wholesale prices inching up after years of decline, energy discounts are still at their highest level since deregulation.
Energy companies are also offering cashback of up to €175 for new customer sign-ups.
"An average household moving from standard gas and electricity rates can now save €387 by switching to the best deals," Mr Moynihan said.
These deals may not remain in place for long.
The most recent figures show that Irish wholesale gas prices increased 8pc on average in November compared to November 2015.
This was a reverse of the previous trend.
The wholesale energy market report published by Vayu Energy found that the average wholesale gas price is up 15pc in November compared with the previous month.
Increased demand and limited LNG (liquefied natural gas) supply during October and November led to the higher prices.
Mr Moynihan said this should be a wake-up call to those who have not switched energy provider.
He said most people do not switch. Last year, 23,925 households switched electricity suppliers in December and 28,684 switched in January.
But there are around 1.8m households in the State.
A household with both gas and electricity could save €387 over a year by getting the best-value deal in the market.
To get a discount price, you usually have to opt for an electronic bill, as opposed to having one posted to you, and agree to pay by direct debit. The best deals in the marketplace right now are at the end of this piece.
For those who want to bundle their electricity and gas bills together and get them from one supplier, then Energia's Clever Dual Fuel is the deal to go for. This will cost the average household €1,737 a year, according to Bonkers.ie. Also worth considering is SSE Airtricity's dual fuel. This is a one-year deal, and you need to sign up for a direct debit and accept electronic billing. The annual cost works out at around €1,742.
The best discount deal for electricity- only customers is from Energia. Its Clever Electricity 33pc discount, which is only available online, will cost the average household €910 a year. Coming in behind it is the Bord Gais Energy 24pc discount with Level Pay offer, which costs €917 a year for the average household.
When it comes to gas suppliers, Bonkers.ie recommends Flogas's 20pc direct debit discount offer. This costs an average household €763 a year.
The cheapest way to take gas and electricity is still from separate companies.
The lowest price can be achieved by combining Energia's Clever electricity deal, with the Flogas 20pc discount rate. This will cost a typical household €1,673 a year.
Cashback - great idea for households with low usage
All major energy providers are offering cashback as sign-up incentives.
In general, the cashback is attached to deals with low discounts and is paid out as bill credit, which customers will receive on their first or second bills.
These cashback offers range from €50 to €175 depending on the provider.
However, you can combine these deals between providers and potentially realise total cashback of up €295.
How do you do this? Switch your electricity to SSE Airtricity 10pc discount (which involves agreeing to a direct debit and e-billing) and you will get €120 cashback.
Then switch gas to Electric Ireland 5.5pc discount (which involves agreeing to a direct debit and e-billing) and you will receive €175 cashback. The total cash-back offer works out at €295, Mr Moynihan of Bonkers.ie said.
But he advocated caution.
"Taking cashback offers suits households with lower usage. Households with higher than average usage would be wise to sign up to the best discounts and will save more," he said.
Best cashback offers
- €175 - Electric Ireland - available on dual fuel, electricity, and gas
- €150 - SSE Airtricity - available on dual fuel
- €150 - Bord Gais Energy - available on dual fuel
- €120 - SSE Airtricity - available on electricity
- €100 - Bord Gais Energy - available on electricity
- €50 - Bord Gais Energy - available on gas
How to switch... Utilities
To change your electricity supplier, you’ll need your MPRN, which is a unique number for your home. You can find this on the first page of your electricity bill. If you want to switch your gas supply, you’ll need your GPRN, which again can be found on the first page of your gas bill.
You’ll need to provide meter readings when you switch. That’s how your new supplier will know where to start billing you and your old supplier will know where to stop. Taking readings yourself is best, but if you can’t get at your meters, you can provide the readings from your last bill.
You’ll need billing information if you want to pay by direct debit too. “It’s best to pay by direct debit if you can because the best discounts are available to customers that pay that way, and you won’t usually need to pay a deposit to your new supplier if you’re a direct debit customer,” said Simon Moynihan of price comparison website Bonkers.ie.
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.
To find the best deals, you can use an accredited gas and electricity comparison and switching service like Bonkers.ie or uSwitch.ie. These sites take into account the amount of energy you use, how you pay your bills and your current supplier when comparing services based on the information you input. They then tell you how much you can save with all the deals you are eligible for.
Potential saving: €387
Total time: 30 mins
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