Buyer's Guide: How to Compare and Hold Gas & Electric Prices in CheckWith the start of the heating season, we become especially sensitive about heating bills. Although prepared for the imminent rise of your gas and electricity bill compared to the summer, our heart just as inevitably skips a beat when seeing it strike an all-time high. We can resign to the situation saying utilities think only about price hikes and never the other way round.
Or we can remind ourselves that our country is a de-facto functioning market economy with at least two dozens of active gas companies and prepare for an escape to the cheaper provider. To launch your research for competitive quotes, bear several factors in mind.
Gas alone or duel fuel?
You should first decide whether you are happy with the price you pay for other utility services. If no, then you should know that some energy providers are equipped to provide you bundled services and charge you a single rate for that. Generally, gas goes along with electricity.
Fixed or variable rate?
As a rule, gas companies let you choose whether you want a fixed or variable rate for the gas you will consume over the term of your utility contract. It might be worth to research the dynamics of tariff fluctuations of the providers in your shortlist. If their history shows an ever-growing rise in prices, it might be worth safeguarding yourself with a fixed rate. If you think the current prices are unreasonably high and you expect them to decline, then variable rates might be your pick.
Your research should also include scrutiny past the promotional "hooray" terms and conditions. Look for the ones which bind you to a company for long. Some providers include clauses which force you to pay a cancellation fee should you leave them prematurely. Yet others can enter a clause for automatic contract extension upon the expiry of the original term which will again qualify you for a cancellation fee should you decide to switch.
The greater number of the suppliers has signed up Energy Switch guarantee according to which it should not take more than 21 days to switch the provider and get a better deal for your energy costs. If you are on a fixed tariff plan, you have to pay exit fee unless there are left less than 49 day till the expiry date of the contract. If you are on variable rates plan you can switch without paying any fee.
Leading gas supplier British Gas has bet on simplicity and has reduced the number of its packages to a precious few. Money Expert has been the tariff comparison tool which, apart from giving you full information about the current tariffs and promotions, has a dedicated phone service with a team of energy specialists on the line.
Do your research
In your search for a cheaper energy deal the internet is your friend. Never has there been so many resources freely available to help you in your bid to track down the cheapest supplier. "Search and compare" websites make this process easy. In particular, Money Supermarket is reputed for its personalised approach. It will first ask you about your current provider, your going tariff and method of payment, available equipment before it yields results and allows you the opportunity to switch.
You should also remember that not all providers are listed on compare websites so ring around and keep an eye on the television for introductory offers.
Can you negotiate?
An additional factor to bear in mind is that you may be able to negotiate a deal with your supplier; talk to them about your current rates, and if there is anything you can do to receive a better deal. Even if your supplier is unwilling to negotiate, you should ask them whether you are on the most suitable tariff. If you aren't, then you have the option to switch to that tariff, however many consumers feel somewhat put out about having been overcharged for what can be a long time.
How energy efficient is your household?
Whilst you should be regularly reviewing your supplier, and whether you can get a better deal else where, you should also try and conserve as much energy as possible in order to bring your bills down naturally. So get turning that thermostat down, bleeding those radiators and be sure to switch off the lights when you leave a room!
Are you being charged correctly?
The last thing to bear in mind is the question as to whether you really need to switch suppliers or not. So you need to be sure that you're being charged correctly in the first place, and whether you're on the best tariff. Energy companies have however been criticised for the complex way they present the information on customer's bills. Some critics even argue that this is done on purpose to ensure that consumers are somewhat left in the dark as to what they're paying. So do your best to get to grips with your energy bills, and, should you have any queries about sudden price hikes or charges that appear on your bill that you don't understand, speak to your supplier.