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Web chats tv | Archived consumer chats | Fuel winter energy

Price Rises Fuel Winter Energy Concerns

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Energy Smart

Energywatch, the independent watchdog for the gas and electricity industries, is urging people to make the changes that will save them money and energy - welcome news indeed to many households following the festive period.

Approximately 50% of consumers have never switched supplier which means they may be paying up to ?100 per year more for their gas and electricity.

EnergySmart representative Ben Wilson joined us. He was live online to answer questions on how you can save money and energy.

The Transcript

Kevin wants to know:

"British Gas supply my gas and npower supply the electricity - both bills are paid by monthly direct debit and amount to about £400 each annually. Can I do better than this?


Ben Wilson said:


It all depends where you live in the country, the local electricity companies vary the prices they charge the suppliers. So what you would better off doing is visiting the energy watch website Download a price comparison sheet for your own region. Those people that have never changed before could find them selves making a significant saving.


Simon wants to know:


"I'd like to know how I can save on money for electricity and gas, because I think I pay too much for a family of 3 for £ 60 a month electricity


Ben Wilson said:


There are three ways that you could save. The first way is to be more energy efficient. Our partners at the energy saving trust have many ways that people can save energy in the home. Just a few that we could pick out; don't leave your appliances on standby and close your curtains at dusk. The next one would be switching supplier. There is most likely to be a cheaper supplier in the market place for you. You can choose separate companies to supply your gas and electricity or you can choose one company to supply both. In order to compare the prices on offer, you will need to calculate how much you are paying for your fuel each year. You can work this out by looking at your last four quarterly bills and your new supplier should be able to supply you with a yearly cost they can supply you with. There are many price comparison websites out there and they will help you find the cheapest deal.


Richard Eden UKPower wants to know:


"Question - How can the message be conveyed to more people about the huge unclaimed savings available in the UK?


Ben Wilson said:


The best way that people can make savings is if they know just how much they are going to save. energywatch does this through publicity. We actively encourage to transfer their supplier who is going to be cheaper for you and will also save energy.


Tim Wolfenden wants to know:


"I'd like to know how often I should check the price comparison sheets to ensure that I'm always with the best deal


Ben Wilson said:


Around once every two months because the suppliers do change their prices every so often.


Tim Wolfenden also asks:


"How frequently should I expect my supplier to read my meter?


Ben Wilson said:


Most suppliers will endeavour to read metres once every three months. However, current legislation only requires them to do this once every two years. Energy watch's better billing campaign is encouraging suppliers to read metres and get those out to customers on time, every time.


Neil wants to know:


"I have just moved into a property that has storage heaters. Would it be cheaper if I had central heating?


Ben Wilson said:


Definitely! You should contact your supplier to see exactly how much it would cost to have gas installed to the property and also take into account the price of the heating system. The savings may not come immediately but it will be worth it in the long run.


Liam wants to know:


"Do you think that the message of energy efficiency is getting across? It angers me how much is wasted, Christmas lights are nice but how many extra fossil fuels had to be used over the holidays. It won't be a merry Christmas in fifty years when the planet is a barren lifeless shell!!


Ben Wilson said:


energywatch is trying to encourage people to save energy and think that everything should be in moderation. A lot of Christmas lights on the market are low powered anyway. However, it all depends on how many lights people put on their homes.


Jeff wants to know:


"How do you know how to save money on your bill. What should you be looking for?


Ben Wilson said:


The things people should look for is whether or not they get any discount. For example a direct debit will usually attract around about £20 discount. The same could be said for online accounts. You may actually benefit from cheaper unit prices by having an online account. Certain suppliers offer a prompt payment discount and of course you also should get discount for being duel fuel. However, if you do choose duel fuel you should check that this is the cheapest option for you as some consumers find out they actually pay more even with the discount.


Ken wants to know:


"What works out cheaper in the long run, gas appliances or electric appliances? Or is there no difference?


Ben Wilson said:


I would say gas appliances would be more cost effective in the long run. There are products on the market at the moment, which will allow you to generate your own electricity by means of a small gas turbine. Any excess electricity that you have on this can be sold back to the electricity supplier. So in actual fact, you may get money back from your supplier by selling electricity back to them.


Hannah wants to know:


"I am a student and fuel bills are obviously an issue! I know that companies offer deals to pensioners and those eligible for benefits but are there any discounts available for students?


Ben Wilson said:


There's none that I know personally. Students are actually charged on the same tariff as everyone else. Unfortunately the answer is no.


Jim wants to know:


"The new flat I've just moved into wasn't registered to an energy provider. I approached londonenergy and they put in an MPAN request for me. They are coming round to fit a meter in next week and now I feel duty bound to stick to them as a provider. If I feel they aren't giving me the cheapest service, how long do I have to stick with them before I can change providers?


Ben Wilson said:


As long as you are a domestic consumer and you haven't signed anything that has tied you in a long contract, you only need to provide the company with 28 days notice before switching supplier.


Bailey wants to know:


"We only have electric heaters in our house and I am aware that they are inefficient and expensive but can't afford to install central heating. Will anyone offer grants for that sort of thing or is it just a case of getting a loan?


Ben Wilson said:


The best way people can find out about grants is to go to Eaga Partnership and you can contact them on 0800 316 6011 or They should be able to advise you best whether you should be due any grants.




As moderator, I'm taking the liberty to ask one of my own as I've just bought a new double radiator for my daughterís room - will it make that much difference as I haven't put it in yet? 

Ben Wilson said:  

Double radiators are generally recommended for certain room sizes. There should be some manufacturing guidelines for you to read before you make the purchase.


smitty2702 wants to know:


"Does extra loft insulation make that much difference and how often should loft insulation be replaced?


Ben Wilson said:


Loft insulation is essential in your energy efficient measures. The vast majority of energy lost in the home is lost through your roof. I would recommend that you ask the manufacturers on how often you should replace it.


anna6 wants to know:


"Is it against the law to charge a penalty to a customer for changing supplier? I would like to switch but am afraid of the small print?

Ben Wilson said:  

It all depends on whether you are a business or domestic consumer. Business contracts often have a termination clause written into them, which means a penalty for breaking the contract will be imposed if terminated early. For domestic consumers, there is generally no penalty for switching suppliers. However, there are some tariffs which may attract a small penalty. Check with your supplier if you are in any doubt whatsoever.


Karen wants to know:


"Iím a single mum with 2 children. Iíve previously been advised that the best way for me to pay my bills is by meter but when I compare some costs with friends I think Iím paying more Ė can you please advise if I could be saving money?


Ben Wilson said:


I assume when you mention meter you are referring to a pre-payment meter. Most companies currently charge more for pre-payment metres, as the administration costs to them are a lot higher than if you were on a tariff like direct debit. energywatch is aware of a few suppliers whose tariffs are the same for pre-payment as they would be for a normal tariff. Contact energywatch on or 0845 906 0708


ll88 wants to know:


"Is there a limit to the number of times you can switch supply for a better deal each year?


Ben Wilson said:


No, all you are really required to do is give the supplier 28 days notice.


Toni wants to know:


"Iíve been told that switching supplier can save money but the procedure seems a bit complicated and when I tried to do this in the past I was still receiving bills from the supplier I thought Iíd switched from - is there a simple way to do this?


Ben Wilson said:


It sounds like your previous supplier has had an error within their billing system. These sorts of problems do occur from time to time. We recommend you contact your previous supplier but if you continue to have problems get in touch with energywatch and they will take it from there.


fgfff wants to know:


"Who are the most expensive suppliers?


Ben Wilson said:


I'm not mentioning any specifics but if you're still with the original suppliers that you have been with you are most likely to be paying more than the people who have switched.


Tilly wants to know:


"Is it always better to switch supplier or are you sometimes better off just calling them and seeing if they will match a competitorís price?


Ben Wilson said:


Why not? Get a quote from your existing supplier and if they can't better the quotes you have been given, then by all means switch.


Tim Wolfenden back with another good question:


"Do you have any information showing how well suppliers perform from a service perspective i.e. is the transfer smooth etc?


Ben Wilson said:


energywatch publish these details on the website, it will indicate how many complaints each company gets and in which category. For example transfers / miss-selling etc. We also produce price comparison sheets, which indicates a service rating for each of the suppliers. Contact energywatch if you want one.


Ellen wants to know:


"A power surge has damaged my equipment - can I get compensation?


Ben Wilson said:


Power surges occur from time to time. Each distribution company will review each case as they receive them. Unfortunately there is no set amount that people can claim from distribution companies.


James wants to know:


"What makes up my electricity bill?


Ben Wilson said:


The first thing that should be displayed on any energy bill will be a supply number. This is the supply number that is unique to your property. You should also see the date that the bill is for, the previous and present readings, the cost of those units should be clearly displayed, it should also contain details of any discounts and also details of any applicable standing charges.




Unfortunately we only have time for one more question, and Kylie has submitted a good one to finish the webchat off with: "Is there one supplier you would recommend or is it a case of shopping around for the best deal? Also I was wondering what the future holds for prices are they going to keep falling? Do you recommend switching regularly say every six months? Should I be following the market to keep an eye out for savings?


Ben Wilson said:


energywatch would recommend that you do follow the market and keep and eye out on those all important savings. Unfortunately no one can really predict whether prices are likely to rise or fall and that's why everyone should ensure that they are paying as little as they need to for their energy. * The ways that we recommend are to either switch your supplier. * Change your payment method.  * Be more energy efficient..

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