How to get the best gas and electricity deals

Two major things have happened to gas and electricity tariffs over the last two years. They’ve become more expensive and they’ve become more complicated.

Of course, everyone knows that energy prices have gone up; we see it on our bills every couple of months. What’s startling though, is just how much they’ve gone up by over the last couple of years. Back 2011, an average household on standard rates could get a year’s supply of gas for €727 and a year’s worth of electricity for around €990.

Then oil and gas prices went crazy which led to big price increases in October 2011 and again in the October 2012. Gas bills have been pushed up by €234 a year and electricity bills by €189. Average customers on standard rates are now paying €961 for gas and €1,179 for electricity every year. A lot of money by anyone’s measure.

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...

And there’s still plenty of money to be saved. So don’t let the changes or the complexity put you off. There’s help out there too, and there are 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. 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 €250 per year.

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. Recently consumers were offered 20% off their gas unit rates if they took electricity and gas together with Airtricity. This was a great deal for customers that used a lot of gas, but it wasn’t nearly so good for households with low consumption because the electricity part of the deal wasn’t discounted. So to make the deal worthwhile, the gas discount needed to compensate for the electricity. It worked 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 5,300 kWh of electricity and 13,800 kWh of gas per year.

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 - on their discount rates, Flogas will save average gas customers around €125 a year off standard gas prices if they pay by direct debit. If they pay by cheque? Less than half that at around €60. So if you’ve been holding out, it’s definitely worth considering direct debit.

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 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, Airtricity will give electricity customers an extra €40 per year discount for ebills, Electric Ireland offers around €20 and Bord Gais won’t even sign customers up to their best deal unless they go with online billing.

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 more than €250 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 and is still the only gas and electricity comparison service to be accredited by the Commission for Energy Regulation as an impartial, accurate and independent supplier of energy price comparisons!


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