Lighten the financial load on your household with a better energy plan
You can save hundreds of euro a year by moving to a new supplier for your electricity or gas supply. With 12 providers in the market you would be foolish not to switch, writes Charlie Weston
SWITCHING is still the quickest and easiest way to reduce your electricity and gas costs. You could save hundreds of euro a year on your annual bills just by moving supplier.
It's simple to switch and can all be done online in minutes.
An average customer could save just under €400 a year by switching. However, if you live in a house with more than three bedrooms or a property with a poor BER (Building Energy Rating), your savings may be even higher, according to Daragh Cassidy of price comparison website Bonkers.ie.
If you are an active switcher, who moves supplier every year, you could really notch up the savings.
Research from the energy regulator shows that householders that actively switched electricity provider over the past four years will have saved more than €1,000.
In the past few months, a large number of suppliers have announced energy price rises, citing higher wholesale prices.
And it is not as if the energy market is short of competitors.
In November, a new electricity provider entered the household market, bringing to 12 the number of suppliers in the retail sector.
Glowpower is not the cheapest in the market, but it is offering a three-year deal with a 25pc discount on standard prices in year one.
It is the second energy supplier to enter this market in the past few months after Spanish giant Iberdrola's entry during the summer.
Those who do not want to move supplier should at least negotiate with their current provider to get a better deal.
A family that actively switched both its electricity and gas suppliers over the past four years will have saved €1,700.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) said: "Savings made through switching suppliers or negotiating with a current supplier could help customers beat the recent price increases."
The regulator described as "robust" the level of switching last year by consumers. Some 14pc of electricity customers and 20pc of gas customers moved supplier last year.
Last October saw an eight-year high in switching rates for gas, and November saw a seven-year high in the switching rate for electricity, the CRU said.
Rules for energy suppliers were changed recently. These included measures that mean suppliers must notify a customer if they have been on the same energy tariff for three or more years.
Suppliers must now also give consumers 30 days' notice before the end of a fixed-term contract.
Providers must also issue an estimated annual bill in their marketing and advertising to provide customers with a transparent metric so they can compare offers from different suppliers.
Commissioner with responsibility for the Retail Markets, Aoife MacEvilly said the CRU wants to see customers paying reasonable prices.
The CRU does not regulate end-user prices, which means energy suppliers are free to set their own.
Most of Ireland's energy suppliers focus mainly on acquiring new customers by offering them the cheapest deals, according to Mr Cassidy, of Bonkers.ie.
But those discounts usually expire after 12 months, at which stage you will be bumped on to the supplier's standard prices. Mr Cassidy said this means the supplier's top price, with no discount applied.
He said that once you get moved onto a standard rate with your supplier, you should immediately call your supplier and ask to extend your discount for another year.
Alternatively, switch to a new supplier.
Most energy contracts last one year. After this you are free to switch to a new supplier without penalty.
If you switch before your contract is up, there will usually be an early exit fee of €50 for single fuel contracts or €100 for dual fuel.
However, in some cases, depending on the deal you originally signed up for, the fee may be higher.
You do not need to give any supplier notice that you are leaving.
As long as you are out of contract you don't need to give your existing supplier any advance notice that you want to switch.
How to switch... Electric and gas
STEP 1 Get our your bill and find your MPRN (meter point reference number) or GPRN (gas point reference number) and with a recent meter reading to hand go online to a site like Bonkers.ie or Switcher.ie and follow the steps below. Provide the name of your existing price plan. You can find this on a recent bill or by contacting your supplier.
STEP 2 Provide a good estimate of how much energy you use in a year, either in euro or kWh. This helps you get the most accurate results.
STEP 3 You will then be presented with a list of all of the deals available to you, presented in order of total price, including all of the additional fees and taxes that get tagged on to energy bills.
STEP 4 Choose your new energy provider. Enter a few personal and banking details, along with a recent meter reading...and that's it.