As featured in the Irish Independent's Your Money magazine
Charlie Weston sheds light on savings to be had from switching suppliers
Last year was a tough year for energy customers. Huge bills from the big freeze put a real strain on household budgets and forced thousands of customers into arrears. In August, electricity prices started going up and by October the price of gas had rocked by over 20%.
Already hard pressed customers can expect energy bills to be €250 more than they were last year. With prices now so high, more and more households will need to find ways to keep their bills under control.
We asked Simon Moynihan, of price comparison website bonkers.ie, to outline some ways to keep bills under control
THE BEST DEALS
Most of us know that switching suppliers or getting a better deal from our current supplier is the quickest and easiest way to cut the cost of gas and electricity. However, more than half of Irish households have never switched for better electricity prices and the numbers are even higher for gas.
An average customer on ESB Electric Ireland’s Standard rate can expect to pay €1,116 per year for electricity. Switching to the cheapest deal will net savings of around €160 which is 14%. Airtricity’s Home Electricity Direct Debit & eBill deal is currently the cheapest tariff available but it does require a 2 year contract. Contract shy customers can save almost as much by switching to Bord Gais’s cheapest rate.
Bord Gais’s prices are still set by the regulator making them the most expensive in the market, and an average Bord Gais customer can expect to spend €876 on gas per year. Flogas’s Direct Debit Discount tariff is currently the cheapest option available and will save customers €113.
♦ Dual Fuel
For many customers, the convenience of having both gas and electricity together with one company makes sense and Airtricity currently offers the cheapest bundles with the Dual Saver Options tariffs. Customers could save up to €240 per year off standard rates with these options but they also require a two year contract.
♦ Keeping them apart
It is slightly cheaper to get gas and electricity from separate suppliers. Signing up to the best deals from Airtricity and Flogas will save around €275 per year over standard rates.
If you do switch, there are there are even more ways of keeping a lid on your energy outlay. Here are some of them:
♦ Read your own meter
Your meter is read four times a year and that’s only if the reader can get to it. Depending on the supplier, estimated readings can vary substantially from actual usage. It’s a good idea to submit a meter reading yourself whenever you receive your bill as this will ensure you only pay for what you use. Suppliers have made this extremely easy. You can submit readings online, by text, email and phone. Your money is better off earning interest in your bank account than your suppliers!
♦ Get and electricity monitor
Electricity monitors cost around €40 and are available from a wide range of retailers. They are simple to set up and have a monitor that can tell you in real time how much electricity your house is using – you can even program them to tell you the cost.
They are great for identifying the gadgets and appliances that use the most energy. Manufacturers reckon that once you are armed with this information, you’ll save more than 10% on your electricity bills. They are not suited to many apartments because the meter and the monitor need to be close to one-another. Currently customers signing up to Airtricity can receive a free electricity monitor.
♦ Consider a NightSaver Meter
If you think you can move more than 20% of your overall electricity usage to the middle of the night, a Nightsaver meter is a great way to save money. ESB Networks will install one for free and any electricity used overnight is charged at around half price. You’ll pay more for your daytime unit rate and your standing charge will be higher, but your savings will increase the more energy you use at night. This could be a good option if you can use timers to heat your water and run big appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and dryers overnight.
♦ Service your boiler
A regularly serviced gas boiler runs more efficiently and uses less gas to heat your water and your home. Prices for a gas boiler service vary, but ESB Electric Ireland is currently running a special introductory rate of €69 for a service which is great news because the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland reckons you’ll save €150 on your gas bills with your boiler running in tip-top condition.
♦ Grants for your home
Making your home more efficient is a great way to save money on your energy bills. If you’re thinking of improving your insulation, installing a new boiler or upgrading your heating controls, you may be entitled to a grant for some of the costs. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has more information. www.seai.ie/grants
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR:
1 Expiring discounts
Almost all energy deals have introductory rates that expire after one year. If you switched to your current supplier more than a year ago, you are probably now paying their standard rates which are usually the most expensive. If you’re unsure, contact your supplier and ask. They may even offer to reduce your rates for you.
Some of the cheapest rates require contracts of up to two years. If you switch away before the time is up, you’ll have to pay a penalty. Airtricity’s Dual Saver tariffs have break penalties of up to €140 and although they offer very good prices, they do not guarantee rates. There are currently no tariffs available that offer fixed prices to domestic households.
3 Internet billing and direct debit
All the cheapest deals require payment by direct debit and most require customers to review bills over the internet. However, for customers that do not wish to do either, savings can still be made by switching. Bord Gais currently offers the cheapest electricity tariff that does not require payment by direct debit or internet billing and Flogas offers the cheapest gas.