| 11.5°C Dublin

Sinead Ryan: How to get the best value when it comes to paying your electricity charges


Watch out for special offers for new customers.

Watch out for special offers for new customers.

Watch out for special offers for new customers.

We pay one of the highest charges for electricity in the EU and more than 30pc higher than our UK neighbours. But why? We believe moving supplier is too complicated and disruptive, but this outlook is changing. However,m switching is as simple as a phone call in many cases and the Commission for Energy Regulation reported 15pc of us switched electricity supplier last year.

Lack of competition is another factor. We simply don't have enough suppliers to generate proper tension in pricing, but we have new players coming to the market such as Energia last year and Panda most recently (the same company which does recycling and garbage collection). With new ways to pay on offer, people are beginning to look around at who is offering what.

This week, I'm looking solely at electricity options, but be mindful that most operators also sell gas and bundling the two can save money in some cases, but not all. Making comparisons is the best way to find out whether it's worthwhile, but to do it properly you'll need an old bill to hand, with your usage and contract type on it.

To actually switch, you'll need your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), which is on your bill, and your account details.

The best sites to use are our friends over at www.bonkers.ie or www.switcher.ie. Watch out for special offers for new customers.

Energia is offering a range of discounts if you switch, go to online billing, direct debit etc, which is a cheaper way for the company to offer you services. Others, such as Bord Gais Energy, is offering a 10pc discount for switchers and €100 cash back before the end of the month. Pinergy, a newish player has €5 free credit for its meter if you get one installed.

BGE is currently offering €100 cash back to customers signing up before 2 August.

Metering and pay as you go

Electric Ireland, Pinergy and PrePay Power offer metering. Typically, they have a keypad and top-up card. According to research it can reduce bills by up to 19.5pc as people are more mindful of using meters, but they are more expensive. You may pay an installation charge and/or a daily fee to 'rent' it on top of the electricity itself.

In Pinergy's case this is 37.5c a day, but installation is free and there will be a smart meter from September showing exactly where your use is highest - handy for highlighting all those long showers to any teenagers living in your house.

With Electric Ireland, installation costs €99 with no maintenance in year one, and 12c a day thereafter. PrePay also charges 37.46c a day. Recently it had to withdraw ads which stated they were the cheapest on the market, which they were not. Always check contract terms, as they can 'roll over' automatically too.

Spreading the Cost

You can opt for payments to be made evenly over the year with most suppliers. This is useful in winter months, when the bill is higher. BGE, Electric Ireland and Energia all offer the service, but there's usually a premium to be paid for it, which is refundable or rolls over if you don't use as much as they reckon. So, you'll pay more on a monthly bill, but it's spread out.

Keeping costs down

Lights account for 10pc of costs - switch to CFL bulbs to save 75pc of it.

l Defrost your freezer - it chews electricity otherwise

l 90pc of your washing machine costs go in heating water. Always use a full load.

l Only boil the water you need in a kettle/pot.