How to find the cheapest gas and electricity

Last updated: 9 September 2020

In this guide, you’ll find answers to the following questions:

  • Is it even possible to find the cheapest gas and electricity?

  • Why could switching suppliers save me money?

  • What suppliers are out there?

  • Can I save with a fixed price plan?

  • Do different meters mean different prices?

  • How much does it cost to switch supplier?

Is it even possible to find the cheapest gas and electricity?

It’s without doubt challenging, but it is possible to track down the cheapest gas and electric deals. One factor above all makes it tricky: the constantly changing price of energy. Added to this are factors like your location, household size, and meter type, all of which have an impact on your final bill. The best way to find the cheapest gas and electricity is to use a price comparison tool, which will show you the latest deals and options in real time. 

Why is cheap energy about location, location, location?

Location is one of the first factors that impacts the cost of gas and electricity. That’s down to the cost of physically distributing gas depending on where you live: regions with a high population density to help to spread this cost will enjoy cheaper gas and electricity deals. Energy typically costs more in remote or rural areas too. There’s a difference of almost £100 per year on the average bill depending on where you live, but while that’s not enough reason in itself to move house, it does highlight the need to compare deals using your own postcode to see relevant pricing plans. 

Why could switching suppliers help save me money?

The best energy deals are always changing due to competition, market prices and regional fluctuations, so it’s important to always stay aware of changing prices to make sure you’re not paying more for your energy than you need to.

In addition, there are several times when switching suppliers is doubly important: if you’ve just moved to a new house, for example, or perhaps you have a prepayment meter installed or have just come to the end of a fixed rate tariff. If you don’t switch suppliers in these cases, you’ll be stuck with a standard variable rate tariff which tends to be the most expensive option. 

What suppliers are out there?

The market has never been so broad for energy supply, with the traditional ‘big six’ now being pushed by a host of smaller energy suppliers.

The big six energy suppliers are: 

  • E.ON

  • Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE)

  • Npower

  • British Gas

  • EDF

  • Scottish Power

These are the original go-to options for comparing plans and prices, and they’re still a good first port of call. An increase in market competition means the big six often supply attractively priced cheap energy deals for new customers. 

That said, small companies outside the big six should always be included in your comparison. These offer competitive rates to attract customers from the larger brand names. This segment is growing rapidly, with a third of the market now taken up by small and medium suppliers like Bulb and OVO Energy.

Are you worried about security with a smaller supplier? Some small energy firms have disappeared or gone bust in the past. However, there are now firm rules in place to protect you should this happen. Ofgem regulations ensure customers are moved to a different supplier without any disruption to service – note, you’re not tied to this new supplier, so if it does happen, be sure to perform a price comparison.

In addition to pricing, you should consider factors like payment methods, eco-friendliness and exit fees when comparing plans from suppliers both big and small. An online comparison tool is the best way to see this information clearly laid out. 

Can I save with a fixed price plan?

Small companies outside the big six are also well worth including in your comparison. These offer competitive rates in order to attract customers from the larger brand names. This segment is growing rapidly, with a third of the market now taken up by small and medium suppliers like Bulb and OVO Energy. 

Are you worried about security with a smaller supplier? Some small energy firms have disappeared or gone bust in the past. However, there are now firm rules in place to protect you should this happen. Ofgem regulations ensure customers are moved to a different supplier without any disruption to service. 

Can I save with a fixed price plan?

For the cheapest gas and electricity plans, consider signing up for a fixed price energy tariff. As the name implies, fixed-price tariffs offer you a fixed cost for each unit of energy you consume during the length of the tariff (typically 12-24 months). Remember, though, that you’re not fixing the price of your bills, just the cost of each unit of energy you use, so they will continue to fluctuate throughout the year based on your actual consumption.

In contrast, a variable rate plan offers prices that go up and down in relation to global energy costs. When wholesale prices go up, you’ll see this reflected in your bill – but at the same time, a reduction in global prices will mean cheaper energy. 

There are potential benefits to both options, but fixed-rate plans are usually extremely competitive and should guarantee a cheaper tariff while also keeping your bills predictable. The cost per unit of energy will stay the same, so if your energy consumption is regular your bills will be easier to plan for. You’ll also be protected from sudden price hikes in the global supply market.

One thing to be aware of with a fixed price plan is the possibility of exit fees. If you switch suppliers before the end of the term, you may need to pay this fee. You should have a 49-day grace period at the end of your agreement to switch without penalty, but always read the fine print to make sure. 

Do different meters mean different bills?

It depends on the meter. Standard (or standard smart) meters work with the widest range of plans and tend to enjoy the most favourable tariffs. Prepayment meters tend to be the most expensive. That said, cheap suppliers come in all shapes and sizes, as do plans and meters. 

Meter typeDescription
StandardThese require regular reading by yourself or a representative from your supplier to provide an accurate record of your energy usage, which is applied to your energy bill. This is the most common type of meter, although they’re rapidly being replaced by smart meters (see below).
Economy 7To reduce your energy bills, you may wish to consider an Economy 7 plan. With this type of set-up, you’ll pay slightly higher prices during the day but up to 50% less overnight. You’ll make the most of an Economy 7 plan if you use appliances like washing machines during off-peak evening hours. The specific hours will vary depending your region and choice of supplier. This type of plan requires an Economy 7 meter (or White Meter in Scotland) which shows two sets of numbers to differentiate between day and night usage.
PrepaymentPrepayment meters are usually installed when a customer has fallen behind on their bills and operate on a pay-as-you-go system using keys or tokens. Although prepayment meter plans are less competitively priced, they do allow you to take control of your budget. You’ll see where every penny of your money is going when you pay for it in advance, so that you can tweak your use to save energy.
SmartSmart meters exist in both standard and prepayment versions, with in-home displays showcasing details of your energy use. You can download an accompanying app to keep track of your household habits and how they impact your final bill (smart prepayment users can also top up online or through their app instead of visiting a local shop). Meter readings are automatically submitted to your energy supplier on a regular basis, which improves the accuracy of your bills and creates a more efficient energy network.

How can I reduce my energy consumption?

According to industry regulator Ofgem, the average UK household spends around £1,254 each year on a standard variable energy plan. Even with the cheapest gas and electricity tariff, there are always ways to save at home. Here are a few tips to cut your consumption: 

  • Turn down your thermostat – One degree may not feel like much of a difference, but it certainly adds up to savings over time. Turn down your thermostat just one degree and you could save up to £75/year from this action alone. 

  • Install a smart thermostat – Smart thermostats only heat the rooms you’re using. They’re fully programmable and learn your household habits over time to predict when and where you’ll need heat. You can control them by smartphone app, which means you can turn heating off remotely when you’re not home. 

  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances – Don’t rush to throw away your current appliances, but when they’ve come to the end of their natural lifespan you should upgrade to a more energy-efficient model. Look for colour-coded energy ratings before you buy. They may cost more upfront but can more than repay the initial outlay in reduced energy bills over time. 

  • Switch off standby mode – Shave money off your energy bills by remembering to turn off your appliances when they’re not in use. Leaving your electronic devices in standby mode is a waste of electricity, particularly as you can now buy standby savers. 

  • Draught-proof your home – Most homes will lose some heat through draughts around windows, doors, and flooring. According to Energy Saving Trust, sealing these cracks can save you about £20 per year on energy bills, with an added £15 saved by installing a chimney draught excluder. 

These are just a few examples of simple actions to take. Factors like double glazing and insulation will also help make your home more efficient to help deliver cheap energy bills. 

How much does it cost to switch supplier?

As you’re comparing cheap energy deals, it’s important to take any potential exit fees into account. It shouldn’t cost you anything to switch supplier. The only time you might need to pay a cancellation fee is if you’re under a fixed-term contract and haven’t yet reached the 49-day grace period just before the end of the plan. 

All you need to switch is your postcode, name and address, and basic details of your current energy plan. Simply plug these into a comparison website to see which cheap energy deals are available in your area today. 

In the end, there’s no single answer when it comes to the issue of finding the cheapest energy supplier. The price of cheap electricity and gas will vary on a day-to-day basis. To save the most money, adopt a two-pronged approach: switch to the best possible deal and conserve energy at home.

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Updated on Tue 28 Jan 2020 08.11 GMT

Published on Wed 23 Oct 2019 03.30 GMT