With around a dozen energy suppliers now operating in the Irish market offering any number of tariffs and deals, it can be confusing trying to figure out which one is best for your household’s needs. Here are some tips to help you out.
A few things have happened to gas and electricity tariffs since the market was deregulated a few years ago. Mainly, they’ve become more complicated and you’d be forgiven for being a bit confused when it comes to deciphering all the jargon that comes with them.
Energy deals themselves have become trickier to understand too. Gas and electricity tariffs used to have a simple standing charge and a simple unit rate and that was it. Now there are contracts, penalties, online billing, dual fuel discounts, direct debit discounts...
The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks that really work when sorting out which deal is best, which will save you the most, and which company is right for you - and we’re here to talk you through them!
It’s absolutely worth it too because the difference between standard rates (which most of us are on) and the best energy deals can save you more than €280 per year. Read on for our tips on choosing the best energy deal for your needs.
Step 1: Find out your annual electricity and gas consumption
How much gas and electricity you use is a really good thing to know. It can be a key factor in determining which deal is best for you too. Here’s why... Energy companies have tariff engineers. And these guys don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach anymore. Now gas and electricity deals are worked out precisely to target specific types of customers. If you know your consumption, you can take advantage of this precise engineering and avoid some of the pitfalls too.
Because tariff engineers target specific types of customers, deals that are great for high users may not be so good for low users and vice versa.
Here’s an example. Let’s say consumers were offered 20% off their gas unit rates if they took electricity and gas together with the same supplier. This would be a great deal for customers that use a lot of gas, but it wouldn’t be nearly so good for households with low consumption because the electricity part of the deal isn’t discounted. So to make the deal worthwhile, the gas discount needs to compensate for the electricity. It works for high users, but not low ones.
There are lots of examples like this where knowing your consumption will help to ensure that you get the best deals. And it’s easy to find out how much you use too. No need to start adding up bills either - just take a meter reading, call your supplier and ask how much you’ve used in the last year. They’ll tell you how much you’ve used in kilowatt hours (kWh). And here’s your benchmark: an average customer in Ireland uses 4,200 kWh of electricity and 11,000 kWh of gas per year.
Step 2: Consider direct debit payment
Quite simply put, the best gas and electricity deals are for customers that pay by direct debit. Of course, energy companies love direct debit customers because they can take payment electronically rather than waiting for and processing costly cheques, but they do pass on the savings they make.
In fact, all energy companies will pretty much double the discounts they offer for customers that pay by direct debit. Here’s an example - Flogas will off a 22% discount to new customers if they are prepared to pay by direct debit. If they choose to pay by alternative means they'll only get a 7% discount! So if you’ve been holding out, it’s definitely worth considering direct debit.
Step 3: Consider online billing
eBilling doesn’t suit everyone of course, but if you’re thinking about changing over to online bills, here’s how it works. When your bill is ready, your supplier sends you an email with a link to your bill. You log in and there it is. And sure you can still print them out anyway. It’s that simple.
So is it worth it? Well, here’s an example; SSE Airtricity will give new electricity customers a 23% discount for customers who choose direct debit payment and ebilling but only a 16% for those who choose direct debit payment and post billing.
Step 4: Check for better gas and electricity deals every year
This is the big one. Energy suppliers attract new customers with discounted electricity and gas deals - which is great because they offer substantial savings over standard rates. However, these discounts typically expire after one year and customers are then “rolled over” onto expensive standard rates.
There usually isn’t any warning or letter in the post letting you know that your unit rates are going up either, so a good idea is to pop a yearly reminder into your calendar to check that your gas and electricity prices. It could save you an average of €289 a year.
Use an accredited gas and electricity price comparison service
A good energy price comparison service can take a lot of the legwork out of finding the best gas and electricity deals. This is because all tariffs and deals should all be listed in one place. And when a new one comes along it should be added right away, and when an old one expires it should be taken down.
And in case you didn’t know, bonkers.ie was the first gas and electricity comparison service to be accredited by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) as an impartial, accurate and independent supplier of energy price comparisons!