A budget plan is a payment method offered by Irish energy suppliers, which allows customers to pay annual energy bills in 12 equal monthly instalments. Bord Gáis’ budget plan is known as ‘Level Pay’ and Electric Ireland’s is called ‘Equaliser’.
What is Level Pay?
Level Pay is an energy bill payment plan provided by Bord Gáis Energy to allow customers to pay their bills in equal instalments over a 12-month period. Annual bills are calculated based on previous years’ consumption and unit rates.
What is Equaliser?
Equaliser is a bill payment programme offered by Electric Ireland. Under Equaliser, customers pay their yearly energy bill in 12 equal monthly instalments. Bills are estimated based on unit tariffs and the customer’s usage history.
How do budget plans actually work?
Monthly energy bills are usually calculated based on the amount of gas and electricity you used in the previous month. This can lead to big swings in how much you're paying for energy at different times of the year, making is almost impossible to budget effectively.
Budgets plans are energy suppliers’ way of removing the unpredictability from paying your bills and giving you more transparency and control over your budget.
When you sign up for a budget plan, your supplier will estimate your bill for the forthcoming 12 months, based on the amount of energy you used in the previous year and the going unit rate.
If you’re signing up to a gas budget plan with a new supplier, your estimate will be based on a reading of the gas register associated with your premises.
What is 'tolerance'?
Your supplier will add a percentage on top of your estimated annual bill to allow for unforeseeable increases in your consumption, due to abnormally cold weather or the purchase of a new appliance. This amount is called a ‘tolerance’ and can be as high as 20% with some suppliers.
The good news is that a ‘tolerance’ is merely a safety net. If your actual bill turns out to be less than or greater than the estimate, you can carry the surplus (or deficit, as the case may be) over to the following year, and it will be factored into your new annual estimate. If your consumption estimate is over €200 (or €250 with Airtricity) greater than your actual annual usage, you will be entitled to this cash back.
Once 'tolerance' is factored in, your estimated bill for the year is divided into 12 equal amounts, which are each paid on a monthly basis, thereby removing the fear, unpredictability and shock that energy bills often bring.
Are there any catches?
Not really, but it is important to note that suppliers reserve the right to increase (or decrease) your monthly payment amount if it looks like the initial estimate was wrong. For example, Airtricity will review your plan every four months and adjust your bill if necessary.
You will always be informed of any changes to your bills in advance to avoid those nasty bill shocks.
How do I pay?
Once you’re on a budget plan, your estimated monthly consumption will be paid by direct debit, which is nice and convenient. Flogas provides an option to repay with a payment card issued by the supplier, if that’s your preference.
If you're on a budget plan, you'll receive a monthly statement detailing usage, unit rate and account balance.
How do I sign up for a budget plan?
Signing up for a budget plan is completely free with all suppliers and more and more people are taking up the option.
We recommend that you set up direct debit billing, ensure that your account isn’t in arrears and check your meter reading before getting in touch with your supplier to sign up. This will allow you and your supplier to make as accurate an estimate as possible, which is in everyone’s interest.