If you’re looking for ways to save money, switching energy companies can help you consistently reduce your bills. If you don’t know how to switch energy suppliers, fear not because here’s my 2021 switching guide for beginners.
How to switch energy suppliers
Many people don’t have the first idea how to switch energy suppliers and they assume it’s a lengthy and complicated process. The good news is: it isn’t!
The hardest part is figuring out which energy company you want to switch to. Once you’ve made that decision, it takes a matter of minutes to sign up and start the process. Usually, all you need to do is head over to the website of your new provider and sign up.
This might involve hitting their ‘get a quote’ button or clicking ‘sign up now’. Before signing up, see if your chosen energy supplier has a referral scheme. By using an existing customer’s referral link, you may be entitled to money off your bill. For example, I got £50 for signing up to Bulb back in 2018 and their referral scheme is still available. Check out my Bulb Energy review for more info.
How long does it take to switch energy suppliers?
So, how long does it take to switch energy supplier? It should only take a few minutes of your time to sign up and register your details. Once you’ve completed your account, the company you’re switching to will take over and you shouldn’t have to lift a finger!
Most energy companies make it easy to sign up because they want you to complete the process. I switched to Bulb energy within about 10 minutes and, more recently, I completed the Octopus Energy signup process within 5 minutes!
What happens when you switch energy supplier?
Many people assume that when you switch energy provider, an electrician of some sort needs to visit your house to change wires and pipes – a bit like you would if you were having Virgin Media installed for the first time. Thankfully, this isn’t the case and it’s unlikely anyone will have to come to your home. You definitely won’t need pipes or wires to be changed. When you apply to switch online, everything is taken care of for you. All you need to do is fill in your details and your new provider will take over from there. You won’t even need to contact your existing supplier to tell them that you’re leaving.
How do I switch energy suppliers without paying exit fees?
Unfortunately, some energy suppliers charge a fee when customers want to leave but thankfully this is becoming less common. The promise of ‘no exit fees’ is reassuring and customers are more likely to switch to a new energy provider if they know they can leave at any time. Thankfully, energy providers are beginning to realise this!
If your current energy supplier does charge an exit fee, it’s worth weighing up the cost of this with the amount you’ll save with the new company. Often, if you’re planning on staying with the new energy provider for a while, you’ll save more money in the long run than if you were to stick around with a company you’re unhappy with.
When can I switch energy suppliers without a penalty?
If you’re in a contract with your energy company, you may have to wait until it’s nearing the end of the term before you can switch. Switching too soon may result in exit fees.
Some energy providers offer fixed-price contracts while still allowing unhappy customers to leave early if they wish. For example, Octopus Energy offers some fixed 24-month contracts but if you decide you’d like to switch after a few months, they won’t charge you any exit fees or penalties.
Before switching, find out what your current supplier’s rules are.
Who is the cheapest energy and gas supplier?
It can be difficult to work out who is the cheapest energy and gas supplier because prices and tariffs often change. And what works out cheap for one person might not be as cheap for someone else. Some energy providers offer more rewarding tariffs for those who use the most energy when other people are sleeping while others offer great deals to people with solar panels. It’s worth comparing a few different options before picking the one for you.
Choosing the right tariff
You don’t have to compare every tariff under the sun, but have a look at a few different options from a handful of companies or use a comparison website to weigh up the costs.
How do fixed-rate tariffs work?
Some people make the mistake of thinking that fixed-rate tariffs mean they can use as much energy as they like and they’ll always pay the same amount. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Instead, a fixed-rate tariff promises that the cost your your energy will always stay the same. So you’ll pay the same amount for a specified amount and your provider can’t put the cost of your energy up. They can, however, increase your bills if you’re using more and decrease your bills if you use less.
A fixed-rate tariff may work out cheapest if you’re willing to commit to a certain price for a set period of time. It can also protect you from price increases. It won’t, however, protect you from an increase in usage.
Check for any ‘exit fees’ when you compare fixed tariffs. You may need to pay the exit fee if you switch supplier or tariff early, though as I mentioned earlier, these are becoming less common.
Can I switch energy suppliers if I owe them money?
So what about if you owe your energy supplier money? Can you switch energy suppliers if you are in debt? This usually depends on how long you’ve been in debt to them for. If you’ve owed them money for less than 28 days, usually you can switch straight away and the money you owe will be added to your final bill. If, however, it’s been more than 28 days, you can’t switch until you’ve paid them back.
There are different rules for switching supplier if you pay in advance for your gas and electricity.
Carrying debt over when you have a prepayment meter
If you owe your energy supplier money and you’re on a prepayment meter, you might be worried about switching to another one.
If you have a prepayment meter, you can switch supplier as long as you owe less than £500 for gas or £500 for electricity. You’ll need to ask the new supplier to agree to transfer your debt over to them. This is known as the ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’.
Do I have to tell my landlord when I switch energy provider?
Wondering whether to tell your landlord that you’re switching energy providers? If you pay the bills yourself and they’re in your name, you have a right to switch to a different supplier without asking your landlord. This is the case even if you’re on a prepayment meter.
Before switching, check your tenancy agreement to see if your landlord has mentioned a ‘preferred supplier’. If they have and the supplier you’d like to switch to isn’t on the list, talking to your landlord about it could be a smart way of maintaining a good relationship with them. However, you’re not legally required to stick to the supplier they’ve chosen.
If your landlord pays your energy bills and you transfer them money for that (whether it’s as part of your rent or separate), you don’t have the right to switch energy provider. If you think your landlord is overcharging you for your energy, this post from Citizens Advice might help.
How often can I switch energy suppliers?
One of the worst things you can do is stick with the same provider out of loyalty. This could see you spending more money than necessary and missing out on cheaper deals elsewhere.
There’s technically no limit to the number of times you can switch energy providers. Some people switch every few months while others do it every few years. However, you may have to wait a while if you’re tied into a contract.
Best energy switcher sites
Get help switching with these energy switching services:
Look After My Bills
If you can’t be arsed to research better deals yourself, let Look After My Bills do it for you.
This is how it works:
- Sign up in minutes
- Look After My Bills will compare dozens of deals to find the cheapest one for you
- You’ll get a notification when a new deal is found and you can switch if you want to
- When that deal ends, Look After My Bills will help you switch again
Money Saving Expert Cheap Energy Club
It’s worth checking Money Saving Expert’s Cheap Energy Club for help finding the right tariff. Once you visit the website, there are 3 options to choose from:
- Pick me a tariff every year
- Compare the whole market for you
- Select the top tariffs for you based on your priorities
- Annually switch you to your top tariff – just approve with a click
2. Help me pick a tariff
- Compare the whole market for you
- Select the top tariffs for you based on your priorities
3. DIY comparison
Compare the whole market for you, so you can pick a new provider
Money Saving Expert’s founder Martin Lewis says: “Take control of your gas and electricity bill and save large. Do a comparison yourself, or try our unique Pick Me A Tariff tools. Select your priorities and we’ll pick a tariff that suits YOU from across the whole of the market, then each year we’ll keep switching you to YOUR best deal if you want.”
I hope this guide has helped you learn how to switch electricity and gas supplier. If you’ve found it useful, please share it with a friend!