A lot of us are guilty of paying our bills without really reading them – unless they seem particularly high or low, we may only feel the need to give them a cursory glance over. However, even if the bills are correct, it’s always sensible to take the time to read through and understand both the rate that you’re being charged, and how much energy you’re actually using.
If you use an online account, you probably have access to even more useful information, as energy companies will often give you the option of comparing your monthly usage with other ‘similar’ households (calculated using factors such as the number of people in the house and the type of property).
This is a great way to work out whether you’re using too much energy and, if necessary, adjust your habits accordingly.
Of course, a lot of this information is only actually useful if the information has been calculated using real and up to date meter readings, rather than estimates. If you're not on a smart meter you'll need to update these readings yourself and if you forget to submit meter readings, especially for a number of months on end, the estimates made by the company are less likely to reflect your real usage.
If they’re too high this means you’re paying too much – and if they’re too low it can be an even bigger problem as you may be faced with a large bill to make up for underpayments.
One of the easiest ways to bring your energy bill down is by switching provider. Many energy companies offer better deals to new customers and, unlike with some services where you can haggle for a better price as an existing customer, it’s generally easier to switch.
You can do so by finding a provider that you prefer and switching to them directly, or by using a comparison service such as Go Compare or Compare the Market, which will take details about your current bills and give you a range of quotes from providers who meet your criteria.
Be aware that, as we mentioned before, if estimated readings have been used to produce your bills the amount that you’re quoted may be inaccurate.
Typically, energy providers offer a number of different payment options, including the choice to pay by direct debit which often comes with a discount. You’ll pay a fixed amount throughout the year, meaning that some of the money you pay in the summer will actually be used to cover higher winter bills.
However, if the amount that you overpay in the summer ends up being more than the amount that you need to cover the rest of the year, your account will end up in credit – and companies aren’t always forthright about giving this money back! Luckily, if you contact them to request that the money is returned, they will credit it back into your account.
Being in control of your energy spend won’t always mean dramatically reduced bills; sometimes it just means awareness of what your gas and electricity costs & why. Either way, though, it can help you to spot when you’re overspending and avoid unnecessary costs.