Put your energy into getting a good deal
Only 15pc of us change electricity or gas supplier each year - but it's easily done and could save you €300, writes Charlie Weston
IN the past few weeks there have been price-hike announcements from six of the nine electricity suppliers in the Irish market. There have also been two hikes from gas suppliers.
This means that consumers can expect higher energy bills.
And this situation will be exacerbated by the cold weather that we have been experiencing over the past number of weeks.
There are two ways to save on your energy bills.
The first is by cutting back on your energy usage, and the second involves switching provider so that you are getting the cheapest possible rate for the energy you do use.
Switching energy supplier
Research from price-comparison site Switcher.ie shows that most of us say we would switch if prices went up, or if we could get a better deal elsewhere.
But the fact is that only around 15pc of Irish consumers switch supplier each year - and this tends to remain fairly static.
This means that the majority of us are missing out on the best deals.
By far the biggest saving can be made by switching energy supplier.
If you switch to a different supplier, especially if you have never switched before or at least not for a while, you could save as much as €300 a year. And it is quick and easy.
Eoin Clarke of Switcher.ie says: "At the moment, the average dual-fuel customer can save up to €335 by switching from a typical standard tariff to the cheapest deals on the market - and some suppliers are offering additional benefits like cashback, welcome credit, loyalty card points, and discounted or free smart thermostats on some plans, too."
He says the important thing is that people don't simply sit back and pay more than they need to for their energy, especially when a few minutes' effort could put hundreds of euro back in their pockets.
Apart from the supplier and tariff being different, nothing else will change - and there won't be an interruption in supply.
Once you switch, take note of the date and set a reminder to shop around again next year when you're out of contract.
This is important as it is how you can ensure you're paying the cheapest rate every year.
If you are not free to switch at the moment - because you have done so too recently - you can make sure you are charged correctly for the energy you use by checking your bills when they arrive, and submitting meter readings regularly.
Consumers can also make savings on their energy bills by taking some simple measures around the home.
• Draughts: Seal off your windows and doors to make sure you're not losing heat due to draughts.
• One degree: Turn your heating down by one degree - this could knock 10pc off your heating bill.
• Curtains: Much of the heat loss from a house occurs through the windows, particularly if they are single-glazed. So keep your curtains closed at night, even in empty rooms, and ensure that the curtains don't hang over the radiators as that will just funnel all your heat out the window.
• Boiling water: Only put as much water as you need in the kettle, so if you're making a cup of tea for one, don't fill it to the top.
• Light bulbs: Replace your lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones. They use a fraction of the electricity and last up to 10 times longer.
• Standby: Turn appliances off, don't keep them on standby. This will save up to 20pc of your appliances' energy use.
• Energy grants: Talk to your energy supplier or the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). There is a lot of money available for grants and financial help to install energy-saving measures, like insulation.
The cheapest electricity deal on the market is Energia's 'Cheapest Electricity (33pc discount)' tariff at €819.10 per year .
The tariff is €152.46 a year cheaper when compared to the typical standard electricity tariff, according to Switcher.ie.
The cheapest gas deal on the market is Flogas' '27pc Direct Debit Discount' tariff at €598.47 per year.
The tariff is €182.33 a year cheaper when compared to the typical standard gas tariff.
The cheapest dual-fuel deal on the market is Energia's 'Cheapest Dual Fuel 29/28' tariff at €1,454.86 per year.
The tariff is €297.50 a year cheaper when compared to the standard gas and electricity tariffs.
Generally, if you have a larger household, the biggest discount possible will be the best option for you as you'll be paying a lower rate on an ongoing basis.
However, if you have low consumption, cashback offers could work out better in the long run. Carrying out a comparison using your actual consumption, rather than using the average, will help you to see what option is best for you.
When you take into account cashback, Electric Ireland's 'Value Saver (Direct Debit and Online Billing)' tariff comes in at €757 (after the €175 the online switching bonus) for an average electricity customer.
Electric Ireland's 'Standard Domestic Gas (Direct Debit & Online Billing)' tariff comes in at €527.74 (after the €175 online switching bonus) for an average gas customer.
With regards to dual fuel, if you switch to Energia's 'Cheapest Dual Fuel 29/28' tariff directly through its website, it comes in at €1,404.86 per year (after €50 cashback).
How to switch utilities
To change your electricity supplier, you will need your Meter Point Reference Number (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 will need your Gas Point Reference Number (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 access your meters, you can provide the readings from your last bill.
You will need billing information if you want to pay by direct debit, too. It is advisable to pay by direct debit if you can because the best discounts are available to customers who pay that way, and you won’t usually need to pay a deposit to your new supplier if you are a direct-debit customer.
It takes around two weeks to complete a switch and once it is done, your old supplier will send you a closing statement, which will be based on your own meter reading. You will 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 Switcher.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 savings: €300 a year