Compare gas prices, suppliers and tariffs

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Guide to comparing gas prices and tariffs

While some households only use electricity, others rely on a combination of electricity and gas for their energy needs. Although households typically pay less for their gas than for electricity, it is still worth comparing gas prices, suppliers and tariffs in order to find out if you can save money on your household’s overall energy bills. This is particularly true if you have never switched suppliers, as you will be able to take advantage of newer tariffs with better prices.

If you do intend to switch, you can take advantage of comparison services or tools that are provided online. You can find these tools on energy broker websites, which cover a wide range of suppliers, or directly from individual suppliers who usually display all available tariffs on their website.

Whether you choose to go directly to your preferred supplier or choose to go through a broker, you’ll need to provide your postcode and the details from your most recent energy bill – your gas usage being the most important.

If you don’t have an energy bill, you may instead need to provide some of the following details:

  • Your postcode.
  • The number of people living at your home.
  • The type of home you live in (typically house, flat or maisonette).
  • The main source of energy used at your home.
  • The amount of time you usually spend at home.
  • What type of plan you’re currently signed up to.
  • Whether you have a prepayment meter installed.
  • The amount you currently spend on energy.

Your supplier will use the points above to help create an estimate of your current usage, although it is always recommended to use your most recent energy bill to get more accurate results.

Comparing Gas Prices

There are two features that make up a gas bill and have a direct impact on the amount you pay for your gas – the standing charge and the unit rate. The unit rate is the amount your supplier charges for each unit of gas you use, which is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). The standing charge does not reflect your usage and is instead a fixed price you are charged in order to have gas supplied to your home on a daily basis.

The easiest way to find the best available tariff for your household is by comparing gas prices and tariffs across suppliers. You’ll need to take into account both the standing charge and unit rate in order to choose the best tariff for your particular situation.

You may be able to get a discount from your supplier if you agree to pay for your gas by monthly direct debit. What’s more, if you agree to manage your account entirely online, reduced administrative costs for your supplier can sometimes result in cheaper deals for your household. Some suppliers may also offer discounts depending on usage thresholds, with high gas users offered larger discounts.

Comparing Gas Suppliers

Alongside price, you may want to look at customer service when comparing gas suppliers. Many energy brokers provide a customer satisfaction quotient for each supplier they offer to customers. You’ll also find that energy suppliers themselves provide both customer satisfaction figures and customer testimonials on their website.

You could also rely on surveys, such as those carried out by independent consumer charity Which?. One recent survey interviewed over 9,000 energy customers in September and October 2014 and found that the Big Six energy suppliers – British Gas, Scottish Power, SSE, EON, Npower and EDF Energy – all scored lower in terms of customer service than many of the smaller suppliers in the UK.

In fact, Ecotricity, Good Energy, Ebico, Ovo Energy and Utility Warehouse all received five out of five stars for customer service. SSE received the best score among the Big Six with four stars while EON, British Gas and EDF Energy received three stars, Scottish Power received two stars and Npower received the lowest score with only one star.

If you’re looking to reduce your carbon emissions, another factor you might look at when comparing suppliers is the type of energy they offer – wholly renewable or non-renewable, or a mix of the two. This is called a fuel mix, which is published on every supplier’s website each year and outlines the percentage of renewable and non-renewable energy they offer.

Comparing Gas Tariffs

There are several different types of gas tariffs and price plans you can choose from, taking into account what is most suitable for your household. Some of the most common types of gas tariffs include:

Standard tariffs: this is usually the most expensive option offered by your energy supplier and is a variable tariff, which means the unit rate of gas can go up or down. You’ll typically be on your supplier’s standard tariff if you have never switched, or have neglected to arrange a new fixed priced tariff after your old one expired. Fortunately, you will not be tied down to a fixed time period, so you can switch to a better tariff at any time.

Fixed tariffs: this means the price of your gas will be fixed for the entirety of the deal, which can be between one to five years long. Fixed tariffs mean you’ll be protected from gas price increases. However, keep in mind that it is only the unit rate that is fixed, so your energy bill can still vary depending on the amount of gas you use.

Capped tariffs: this type of tariff can be more flexible than a fixed tariff, and less expensive than a standard tariff. Capped tariffs mean the price you pay for each unit of gas can fluctuate depending on the market price – whether this increases or decreases – but the price is capped at a certain level, so you’ll never pay more than a pre-determined amount.

Dual fuel tariffs: if you use both gas and electricity at your household, you may consider a dual fuel tariff, where you buy both types of energy from the same supplier. A dual fuel tariff can make things more convenient, as you won’t have to deal with separate dates and different suppliers. Suppliers tend to offer discounts for this kind of deal, but it is important to find out whether buying gas and electricity separately from different suppliers might be even cheaper.

Prepayment tariffs: with a prepayment tariff, you’ll be able to pay for your gas in advance using a top-up card or key. You can do so at participating shops, post offices and online, depending on what is most convenient for you. This type of tariff is typically offered for those with a poor credit score or low income, but can cost more than other tariffs – and you won’t benefit from any price deals.

Green energy tariffs: this type of tariff typically uses a mixture of renewable and non-renewable energy sources to provide sustainable energy to your household. Some suppliers also offer 100% renewable energy.

Online tariffs: as mentioned above, an online tariff – where your account is managed entirely online – can help save you money as your supplier will not have to deal with high administrative costs, so can offer you a discounted rate.

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