Winter is coming and it is time to check what you are paying for your energy before the central heating goes back on. Last January the government introduced the energy-price cap, but that doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels.
The price cap limits what a company can charge if you are on its standard variable rate: the tariff you'll be moved to if your fixed deal ends and you don't switch. You can still save a lot of money by shopping around for the best deal.
"People should not see the price cap as a blessing or a safeguard rather, merely a cap on the absolute amount of money they should be paying for their energy," says Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com.
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The comparison service estimates that you can still save £253 a year if you switch from the average standard variable rate to the best deals. With most deals ending after 18 months to two years, if you haven't switched in that time you are probably on your firm's standard variable rate.
To find the best deal, dig out your latest bill and head to a comparison website, such as comparethemarket.com, moneysupermarket.com or uswitch.com. Tap in the details about your energy consumption that are provided on your bill and you will bring up a list of the best deals and how much you will save. Make sure you tick the option to see all results otherwise the sites will only show you the ones you can switch to through them and you might miss out on some savings.
When choosing a deal, don't just opt for the cheapest one. Five energy firms have gone bust so far this year and another nine are reported to be in trouble.
The trouble is that a huge number of small suppliers have entered the market in recent years and now higher wholesale prices, a competitive market and the energy-price cap are causing many to fail.
So before you sign up to a deal, do some research into the company. Consumers' group Which has rated and reviewed many suppliers and has included customer ratings, which will give you a good idea of the quality of a company.
If you are with an energy firm that collapses, don't panic. Ofgem will step in to make sure your supply is unaffected and to find another provider to take over all the company's customers.
How to delegate switching tariffs
If you can't be bothered to switch your energy provider regularly there are firms out there that will do it for you.
The likes of Weflip or Switchd will monitor the market for you and transfer your account whenever moving could save you money. All you have to do is give them details about your energy provider, your usage and your current tariff. Their computers constantly check for better deals from the suppliers they represent.
If they find a deal that will still save you money even after exit fees from your current provider, they will start a switch on your behalf. You'll be notified of the potential switch by email so you can stop it if you don't want to move.
Auto-switching service Switchcraft claims customers can save an average of £219 a year. The service "promises it will only take consumers three minutes to sign up and get started and unlike some auto-switching sites, it is free to use", says Grace Gausden on thisismoney.co.uk.
The drawback with auto-switching is that you are moved based on price, not customer service. You could therefore find yourself with low bills, but a lousy firm. So when you are told a switch is due, check out the firm you are being moved to. If it has a bad reputation, cancel the move.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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