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Top five cheapest energy deals for December 2017

Frosty mornings, frozen fingertips and perhaps even a sprinkling of snow. If you’ve turned up your heating or left it on for an hour longer to beat the chill, it doesn’t have to mean a vastly bigger energy bill. See what savings you could make by switching supplier to beat a winter bill rise.

This month, we’ve found a GBP329 difference between the priciest standard energy tariff from a Big Six energy company and the cheapest deal on the market. That’s enough to buy you an Apple iPad 9.7 or eight bottles of the top-scoring Which? Best Buy Champagne.

If you switched to the cheapest deal from any of the Big Six’s standard tariffs, you’ll save GBP264 at the very least. Just short of an iPad, but still enough for six bottles of Best Buy bubbles.

Worried about your winter energy bills? Read on to see the cheapest December energy deals or compare gas and electricity prices[1] using our independent energy comparison site Which?

Switch to find the best deal for you. Or phone on 0800 410 1149 or 01259 220235.

December’s cheapest gas and electricity deals

British households now have more than 70 energy companies to choose from. To save you time on your December to-do list, here we’ve listed the five cheapest gas and electricity tariffs for medium users.

All the top five deals are from smaller companies. The top three are all from Usio Energy, which only launched in autumn. The first figure shows how much each deal would save you over a year compared with British Gas[2] or Npower[3]‘s standard tariff.

We’ve chosen these because they’re the cheapest and priciest standard tariffs, respectively, from the biggest six energy companies.

  1. GBP837 Usio Energy: Smart Home after 7pm 0.2 Paperless. Variable tariff with no exit fee. GBP329 saving from Npower, GBP264 saving from British Gas.
  2. GBP839 Usio Energy: Smart Lifestyle Fixed Green 0.2 Paperless. Fixed tariff with no exit fee. GBP327 saving from Npower, GBP262 saving from British Gas.
  3. GBP840 Usio Energy: Smart Home after 7pm Green 0.2 Paperless.

    Variable tariff with no exit fee. GBP326 saving from Npower, GBP261 saving from British Gas.

  4. GBP841 Together Energy: Together Fixed December18. Fixed tariff, GBP60 exit fee. GBP324 saving from Npower, GBP260 saving from British Gas.
  5. GBP842 Tonik Energy: Positively Green v5 Paperless. Fixed tariff, no exit fee. GBP323 saving from Npower, GBP259 saving from British Gas.

How soon can you save money on energy?

Switching energy supplier takes only a few minutes if you have the right things to hand.

Check what you need in our step-by-step guide to switching energy supplier[4]. Once you’ve made the switch, there’s a 14-day cooling-off period in which you can change your mind. After that, it will take 16 days on average, according to energy regulator Ofgem, to complete your transfer to the new company.

If you want to switch faster, choose a supplier that’s signed up to the energy switch guarantee[5]. These companies pledge to complete your switch within 21 days.

Gas and electricity companies in the news

British Gas, Eon, Npower, and SSE have all hit the headlines recently. British Gas, Britain’s biggest energy supplier, announced plans to scrap its standard tariff[6] for new customers, while Npower and SSE plan to merge[7] into one ‘new independent energy supply and services business’, SSE[8] said.

Meanwhile, Eon[9] took the longest to answer the phone to its customers in our energy companies customer service investigation[10]. The snapshot research found that Eon kept us waiting 14 minutes and 18 seconds on average to speak to a human, while the fastest firm, Bulb,[11] took just 27 seconds on average. After Eon, British Gas, SSE and Npower were the slowest firms to pick up the phone.

Our energy pricing research

Prices are based on a dual-fuel tariff available in all regions for an average user (using Ofgem averages of 3,100kWh of electricity and 12,000kWh of gas per year), paying by monthly direct debit, with paperless bills.

Prices given are averages across regions, are rounded to the nearest whole pound and correct on 4 December 2017.

References

  1. ^ compare gas and electricity prices (switch.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ British Gas (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Npower (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ switching energy supplier (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ energy switch guarantee (www.energyswitchguarantee.com)
  6. ^ scrap its standard tariff (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ Npower and SSE plan to merge (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ SSE (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ Eon (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ energy companies customer service investigation (www.which.co.uk)
  11. ^ Bulb, (www.which.co.uk)

We know if you’re paying too much for energy

Your age and where you live in the UK determine how likely you are to have switched energy supplier or moved gas and electricity tariff, exclusive Which? research reveals. Take our quiz to find out if you’re capable of beating the energy rip-off. Common energy deal pitfalls that can result in you paying more than you need to for gas and electricity include how often you switch energy supplier, or how long you stay on the same gas and electricity deal.

And how you pay can also have an impact on the price. We’ve created a quiz that will tell you whether or not you’re paying too much for energy (spoiler: you probably are). It will also tell you what you can do to save money on your energy bills as the temperatures drop.

Which? energy rip-off quiz

Can’t see the quiz?

Go to beat the energy rip-off[1].

Whether you’re paying too much depends on your age and where you live

More than a third (34%) of those aged 18-24 have always been a customer of their current gas and electricity supplier – perhaps unsurprisingly, since they’re the newest customers who’ve had the shortest opportunity to switch.

Least likely to have switched energy supplier: 18-24s

Overall, a quarter (25%) of adults have not actively switched energy firm. If you live in Northern Ireland, you’re almost as likely to have always been a customer of the same energy company: 33% of you told us that’s the case. If you’re aged 65 or over, the majority (55%) of you have been with the same energy company for at least five years.

Most likely to have been with the same energy company for more than five years: 65+

Less than half (47%) of adults of any age have been with their supplier longer than five years.

Just 25% of those aged between 34 and 45 have been with their current energy firm this long.

Who’s the least likely to have changed tariff?

More than seven in ten (72%) energy customers in Northern Ireland say they have never changed their tariff or deal while with their current company. Although there is less choice in Northern Ireland than in England, Scotland and Wales, not comparing tariffs means you risk missing out on the best deals. By age, 45-54s are the most guilty of staying on the same tariff.

Nearly half (48%) admit they’ve not changed their tariff, compared with the overall average of 42%.

Have you changed the way you pay your energy bill?

Changing payment method isn’t particularly common. Paying by direct debit is usually cheapest, so there’s no need to change if you do this. But if you pay when you receive each bill, you’ll often be paying more, according to our research.

Least likely to have changed payment method: 55+

If you’re aged over 55, check how you pay.

You’re the least likely not to have changed your payment method – 80% of 55-64s and 82% of those aged 65+ told us this. So this age group is most likely to still be paying by pricey standard credit.

How to save money on energy

Follow our simple tips to save cash over the winter:

  • Switch energy supplier[2] to save up to ?346. That’s comparing the priciest Big Six standard tariff (Npower[3]) with the cheapest deal available.
  • Program your heating[4] to come on only at times when you need it (and off when you don’t – during the night, for example).

    Consider setting it to switch off 20 minutes before you usually go out, as there will still be residual heat in your home.

  • Turn down radiators in rarely used or empty rooms and shut the door so you’re not heating areas you don’t need to. Plus, follow other money-saving heating controls tips[5].
  • Replace your light bulbs with energy-saving LED bulbs[6]. An LED bulb costs around ?1.71 per year to run and could cut ?180 from your energy bills over its lifetime, compared with old-style bulbs.
  • Draught-proof[7] your house to help keep warm air in and cold air out.

    Much of it you can do yourself, saving up to ?50 on your bills in a year and making your home more comfortable.

Our energy research

Based on an online survey of 8,851 UK adults in September and October 2016. Savings figures based on the difference between the priciest standard tariff from a Big Six energy company (Npower) and the cheapest deal on the market, correct on 31 October 2017. Pricing data is from Energylinx, based on a medium user (using Ofgem averages of 3,100kWh electricity and 12,000kWh gas per year), paying by monthly direct debit, and with paperless bills.

Prices are averages across England, Scotland and Wales.

References

  1. ^ beat the energy rip-off (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Switch energy supplier (switch.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Npower (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Program your heating (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ money-saving heating controls tips (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ LED bulbs (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ Draught-proof (www.which.co.uk)

Npower and SSE plan merger into new energy company

Energy companies Npower and SSE are in talks about joining together to create a new gas and electricity supplier. But neither supplier is rated highly by its customers. Could the merge help them improve?

SSE is the second-biggest energy supplier in Great Britain. Around 7.77 million households are its customers, while Npower serves 4.8 million households. If they joined together, the new company could become the electricity supplier with the biggest market share, overtaking British Gas.

But our survey has shown that these companies aren’t viewed particularly favourably by their customers. Read on to find out more about how Npower and SSE compare, their customer ratings, and how you might be affected if you’re one of their customers.

Npower or SSE customer? Compare gas and electricity prices[1] to find the best deal for you using our independent energy switching service, Which? Switch.

SSE and Npower compared

In August Npower[2]‘s owner, Innogy, said that it would have a financial loss this year.

Meanwhile, SSE[3] revealed in July that it had lost 230,000 customers over the past year. Both energy firms raised their prices earlier this year – along with the rest of the Big Six – but Npower’s price rise was the greatest. Its standard tariff is currently the priciest among the Big Six firms, costing ?1,166 per year for the average user.

The cheapest deal available across England, Scotland and Wales is currently Economy Energy’s Online Saver, costing ?830 a year for the average household. SSE currently has 14% electricity market share, compared with Npower’s 10%, according to energy regulator Ofgem’s figures. They both also supply 11% of the household gas market.

Combined, this could see the new company have 24% electricity market share – bigger than British Gas[4]‘s 22% – and 22% gas market share (still short of British Gas’s 33% gas market share).

The best and worst energy firms

Npower was rated the worst energy supplier in our most recent survey of more than 8,000 energy customers in the UK. Its overall customer score of 44% fell far short of top-scoring small supplier Ovo Energy[5]‘s 78%. Npower was also the only energy supplier to score one star for helping customers to save energy, when we asked its customers to rate it.

SSE scores better, but still not highly. See our full energy satisfaction survey results[6] to find how it fares alongside 23 other gas and electricity firms.

What does this mean for Npower and SSE customers?

SSE’s talks with Npower’s parent company, German firm Innogy, ‘are well advanced but no final decisions have been taken’, according to SSE. At this stage, it’s therefore too early to say what this would mean for customers of the two companies, or the price of their energy deals.

SSE said: ‘In line with its stated commitment to embrace change in each of its businesses, adapting them to the political, economic, social and technological requirements of customers and of society as a whole, the board of SSE has been in discussions with Innogy about creating a new independent energy supply company.’ It added that it will ‘disclose the outcome of the discussions as soon as they are concluded’. This follows closely behind SSE’s announcement[7] that it would stop automatically putting customers onto variable tariffs that are the most expensive at the end of their fixed deals, from early next financial year.

Instead, it will put customers onto an equivalent cheaper fixed-term deal.

Besides SSE, British Gas, Eon and Scottish Power have also all committed to moving customers off their more expensive standard tariffs.

References

  1. ^ Compare gas and electricity prices (switch.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Npower (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ SSE (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ British Gas (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Ovo Energy (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ full energy satisfaction survey results (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ SSE’s announcement (www.which.co.uk)