For most of us, electricity and gas bills make up a significant percentage of our household spending but making a few simple changes can lead to big savings. Some examples include reducing your heating to a lower temperature, only heating as much water as you need, servicing your boiler regularly to avoid breakdowns and unplugging all non-essential electrical appliances.
If you think you are paying too much for your electricity or gas services, you can consider switching to a new provider. Switching is easy and more importantly, it is free!
For accredited price comparison websites visit www.bonkers.ie or www.switcher.ie.
Saving money on electricity and gas
Your electricity and gas bills probably use up a very significant proportion of your household budget, but you can make big savings by following a few simple steps to help reduce the amount of gas and electricity you use:
Heating & Insulation
- Insulating your home is an easy and cost-effective way to save money on your heating bills. For example, insulating your attic can cut your heating bills by up to 20%
- Water heating is one of the most expensive electricity costs in the home. You can save money by only heating as much water as you need. Install a timer control switch for your hot water tank if you don’t already have one
- Reduce your heating to a comfortable 20°C. Lowering your thermostat by just 1°C can knock 10% off your heating bill
- Installing a lagging jacket can save you up to €2.50 a week in water heating costs and can pay for itself within three months
- You should have your boiler serviced every year to help ensure it is safe, that it operates most efficiently, and to help avoid breakdowns. Modern boilers are far more efficient and cost effective than older versions. Remember, it is illegal for anyone other than a Registered Gas Installer to service your natural gas boiler. Registered Gas Installers have completed safety training, conform to Irish standards and have insurance. Find a Registered Gas Installer at www.rgii.ie
Doors and Windows
- A lot of heat can be lost through your windows, particularly if they are single-glazed. If you are buying new windows, do some research – more efficient windows can save you more in energy costs over their lifetime
- Block up leaks and drafts, particularly around windows, doors and the roof. Never block vents in your rooms as fresh air is needed
- Use heavy curtains, preferably lined ones, to keep in warm air. Close curtains at night – even in empty rooms. Open the curtains during the day to let in the heat from the sun. Make sure that curtains don’t hang over radiators as that will block heat getting into the room
With open fires, 70% of the heat gets lost up the chimney. Installing a stove instead of an open fire will use less fuel and give out more heat, saving you money on your heating billsIf you are not using open fires for long periods, prevent draughts from the chimney by getting a chimney balloon from a DIY shop
- It costs the same amount of money to heat the water for 1 bath as it does for 5 showers – so save money (and water!) and take showers
- On average, smaller appliances use less than a fifth of the electricity used by large ones – so using a toaster to make toast will only cost you a fifth of the cost of toasting the bread under the grill
- When using an electric kettle, only boil as much water as you need
- A half-full dishwasher, washing machine or dryer uses the same amount of energy as a full one. Wait until your dishwasher or washing machine is full before turning it on, or if your appliance has a half-load setting on it use this instead to save money
- Heating water costs you money, so use the lowest temperature recommended by the manufacturer when using your dishwasher and washing machine
Turn off and unplug
- Leaving electrical appliances on standby, or leaving phone chargers plugged in when you’re not using them costs money – so unplug them! Unplugging all non-essential electrical appliances could reduce the average household electricity bill by between €50 and €100 a year
- You can try the Electric Ireland appliance calculator to find out how much each of your electrical appliances costs you to run
Energy efficient appliances
- If you are buying new appliances, ask what energy rating they are. The higher the rating, the more efficient the appliance will be, costing you less to run. ‘A’ rated appliances are the most cost efficient
You can get lots more energy saving information for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland at http://www.seai.ie/
Switching electricity and gas provider
If you are unhappy with the service you are getting from your electricity or gas provider, or if you think you are paying too much, you can easily switch to a new provider. There are currently four main electricity and gas providers on the market:
- Bord Gáis
- Electric Ireland
- Flogas (gas only)
For accredited price comparison websites visit www.bonkers.ie or www.switcher.ie.
How do I switch?
Switching is free and only takes a few minutes to complete online, over the phone or at your doorstep. Follow these simple steps:
Step 1 – Choose a provider
Shop around to check which plan works best for you. Make sure you are comparing like with like and remember domestic and business rates will differ. Make sure you compare both the unit rate and the standing charge when comparing plans. The Commission for Energy Regulation provides a list of electricity and gas providers with some helpful hints and tips on switching.
- Consider getting natural gas and electricity from the same provider. Some suppliers offer discounts if you get both your gas and electricity from them. However, you may save more by getting electricity from one supplier and natural gas from another, so it is worth comparing different packages
- Consider paying by direct debit. Most suppliers offer discounts if you pay your bills by direct debit
- Consider how you get your bills. Some providers offer discounts if you are happy to get your bill online instead of by post. If you choose this discount you will no longer receive paper bills by post and it will be your responsibility to check your bills online and make sure they are paid
- You are entitled to a fourteen day cooling-off period, so if you are not happy with the terms and conditions of your contract, you can cancel it
Step 2 – Provide details to your new provider
When you contact the provider you have chosen, you will be asked for your meter point registration number (MPRN). You will find this on your electricity bill and on your meter. Your new supplier will ask you for your address and a meter reading, so make sure you have this information. They will then make the necessary arrangements with your old supplier to have your account switched. If you are going to pay by direct debit, you will need to give your supplier your bank details.
Step 3 – Switch
Once your account has been switched, your new provider will send you a welcome letter and you will receive a final bill from your old supplier. Make sure to read and understand the terms and conditions of your new contract. If you have any questions about your new contract, you should contact your new supplier.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need any special equipment if I switch?
No. There is no need to carry out any work on your home, and no rewiring is required. You will keep the same electricity and gas meters when you switch and your meter will still be read by the gas and electricity networks (ESB Networks for electricity and Bord Gáis Networks for gas), regardless of which provider you choose.
What happens if I have a problem with my gas or electricity supply?
These problems will still be dealt with by ESB Networks or Bord Gáis Networks, which manage the supply and delivery of electricity and gas to homes.
How often will I be billed?
Each provider has different price plans available with different billing cycles.
Can I switch if I am in arrears with my current electricity or gas account?
Yes. However, your new provider will know if there are arrears on your electricity or gas account through the new “debt flagging” system which will be introduced soon.
Do I have to pay a deposit?
Some providers may charge a deposit. This is usually repaid if you meet the terms and conditions in relation to paying your bills or when you close your account. Check the terms and conditions of each supplier to see if a deposit is required and when it will be paid back to you.
If I agreed to switch provider at my doorstep and have changed my mind, what can I do?
A fourteen day cooling-off period applies, so if you are not happy with the terms and conditions of your contract, you can cancel it by contacting the provider you signed up to.
Will I be tied into a contract if I switch?
Check the terms and conditions of the payment plan you are choosing. Some suppliers have no minimum time requirement before you can switch again, but others offer fixed term contracts. If you choose a fixed term contract you may have to stay with that provider for a minimum length of time before you can switch, or a penalty may apply.
Is there a charge for switching?
No. There is no charge for switching to a new gas or electricity provider unless you have a fixed term contract that ties you to your old provider for a specified term.
What if I have problems switching?
The Commission for Energy Regulation requires electricity and gas providers to have codes of practice and customer charters setting out their processes and commitments to their customers. These must include complaints handling, customer billing and payments.
Your provider must give you a copy of its codes and charter if you ask for them and publish them on its website.
This article was provided CCPC, which is responsible for enforcing competition and consumer protection law in Ireland. To help consumers make informed decisions it also gives independent, unbiased information about consumer rights and personal finance products and service through its consumer helpline 1890 432 432 and consumer website www.consumerhelp.ie.