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Should you be tempted by energy company freebies?

Smart thermostats, shopping vouchers, boiler cover, LED lightbulbs and more are available free with the right energy tariffs. But should you be tempted by the offers, or would you be better off switching your gas and electricity elsewhere and buying the freebie yourself? We’ve looked at deals from the biggest energy companies and crunched the numbers to reveal how good the offers really are.

We’ve also discovered how much money you can save if you don’t get taken in by the marketing claims. We’ve found dual-fuel deals which will cut your energy bills compared with the same company’s cheapest tariff (if you’re a medium energy user), and one where you could be around GBP86 worse off. You can also find out which deal is actually GBP219 more expensive than switching to the cheapest tariff on the market and buying the freebie yourself.

Read on to see our verdict on freebies and energy deals from British Gas, Co-operative Energy, EDF Energy, Eon, Scottish Power, SSE and Utility Warehouse. Want to save money on energy now? Compare gas and electricity prices[1] with our independent site Which? Switch.

Energy freebie quiz

Can’t see the quiz and you’re on your mobile?

Leave it a few seconds – then if you still can’t see it, click here[2].

Energy companies’ freebies

We’ve delved into whether the freebies you’re offered to persuade you to switch to a particular tariff are really worth it. Don’t be tempted by the marketing ads until you’ve read the results of our research. Watch our video, below, then keep reading for more information about each company and its offer.

[embedded content] Already know which company you’re interested in? Then use our links to go straight to it, or scroll to read each one:

Free smart home products with your gas and electricity

EDF Energy and Eon are both selling gas and electricity tariffs that chuck in free smart home products, such as smart thermostats and smart light bulbs.

EDF Energy’s deal could save you more than GBP30 per year compared with its own cheapest deal. Eon’s works out as around GBP86 more expensive. But with both tariffs, you’d save most by switching to the cheapest tariff on the market (GBP815 per year for Outfox the Market Whack!

January Tariff Medium) and buying the smart home products separately. If you’re tempted by a smart thermostat, check our tips to buy the best smart thermostat[3]. British Gas also offered a tariff with free Hive smart home products, but this is now discontinued.

EDF Energy Connect + Control Feb 2020

A HeatSmart Netatmo smart thermostat and Amazon Echo[4] are the goodies included with this tariff.

How much does it cost? GBP1,124 per year for a medium user, including the Netatmo thermostat (which EDF states costs GBP199 including installation) and an Amazon Echo (2nd generation) (GBP89.99). Should I switch? It works out slightly cheaper to buy the Connect + Control tariff if you want the Netatmo thermostat, Amazon Echo and are keen to be an EDF Energy customer. Buy them separately (you can get the Netatmo thermostat for GBP149 plus GBP50 installation, and the GBP89.99 Amazon Echo) with EDF’s cheapest tariff and you’d be GBP33 worse off per year.

But pick the cheapest deal on the market, buy the Amazon Echo and Netatmo separately (and install the smart thermostat yourself, saving GBP50), and you could save GBP189 per year. What else do I need to know? Your boiler will need to be compatible with the thermostat and have heating controls with a programmer. The exit fees are substantial: GBP135 per fuel if you leave before the end of the two-year deal.

Which? survey verdict: EDF Energy[5] was placed joint 22nd out of 31 companies, as voted by customers in our annual energy company survey. Though it’s joint-highest-ranked of the Big Six firms, alongside Eon, smaller firms are much better loved by customers. EDF’s customers gave it four stars for its bills and phone customer service, but were less positive about other aspects.

Eon Fixed 2 Year Tado Bundle

How much does it cost? GBP1,193 per year for a medium user, including a Tado smart thermostat which Eon states costs GBP249 (including GBP50 installation).

Should I switch? If you’re set on being an Eon customer, you’ll save more (around GBP86 per year for a medium user) by picking its cheapest tariff (costing GBP908 per year for the average user) and buying the Tado smart thermostat separately. It costs GBP109 direct from Tado, plus GBP90 installation. Most customers install it themselves though, Tado says, so you could save more.

Save an extra GBP148 per year by picking the cheapest tariff on the market, buying the Tado thermostat direct from Tado and installing it yourself. That’s a total of saving of GBP324. What else do I need to know? This tariff is only available for 500 customers, and you must pay by direct debit and claim your Tado thermostat within 14 days of receiving email confirmation.

It’s a two-year tariff, with exit fees of GBP75 per fuel if you want to leave early. Which? survey verdict: Eon[6] finished in joint-22nd position with EDF Energy, out of 31 companies in our most recent energy satisfaction survey. It scored a consistent three stars across the board, according to customers: good but not great.

British Gas HomeEnergy Fix Oct 2019 (no longer available)

This tariff came with a Hive Welcome Home Plan and Hive Live ‘at no additional cost’.

This meant you got two Hive Active light bulbs, a Hive motion sensor and Hive Active Plug. You also got the Hive Hub and access to Hive Live (which gives you discount on other Hive products, warranty and text alerts). How much did it cost? GBP1,076 per year for a medium user, including the Hive Welcome Home Plan worth GBP155 (according to British Gas).

Should I switch? If you want to be British Gas customer, this was the most cost-effective way of getting the Hive Welcome Home Plan. Now you’ll need to buy it separately (it costs GBP9.99 per month) with British Gas’ current cheapest tariff, which costs GBP39 more per year than the HomeEnergy Fix tariff did. But you’ll save even more by switching to the cheapest dual-fuel deal on the market (Outfox the Market’s Whack!

Tariff, GBP815 per year) and buying the Hive Welcome Home Plan separately. Which? survey verdict: British Gas[7] finished 26th out of 31 energy companies included in our latest survey. Customers rated its value for money two out of five stars.

Free shopping vouchers with your energy

Co-operative Energy, Npower and SSE are offering vouchers worth up to GBP100 with their tariffs.

Though tempting, you can save more than the value of the vouchers by choosing a cheaper deal.

SSE Fix and Shop

How much does it cost? SSE offers two two-year fixed deals which come with GBP50 to spend (for dual-fuel): choose between Love2Shop and Currys/PC World. They cost GBP1,109 per year for a dual-fuel customer who uses a medium amount of gas and electricity. Should I switch? Though GBP50 to spend with a retailer is tempting, this isn’t good value for money for a medium user, even compared with SSE’s cheapest deal.

Choose that (1 Year Fixed v14), spend GBP50 at the retailer over two years and you’ll be GBP31 up per year. Pick instead the cheapest deal on the market with another energy firm and you’ll pay GBP269 less per year than SSE’s Fix and Shop deal. Take off the equivalent of the GBP50 voucher, and that’s you saving GBP219 plus having fifty quid to spend on whatever you want.

What else do I need to know? These two-year fixed tariffs come with GBP25 exit fees per fuel if you want to leave early. Which? survey verdict: SSE[8] finished joint 24th out of 31 companies in our annual energy survey. Customers ranked most aspects of its service as average, so it has plenty to improve on, though they were more positive about its phone customer service.

Co-operative Energy Co-op Fix and Fly Jan2020

How much does it cost? GBP1,009 per year for two years.

You get a GBP50 travel voucher per fuel (so GBP100 if you buy gas and electricity). Should I switch? The cheapest Co-op tariff available around England, Scotland and Wales costs just GBP11 less than this one per year, so you’re better off choosing this deal, if you want to stick with the Co-op and will use the travel vouchers. But the cheapest deal on the market will save you GBP194 compared with Co-op’s Fix and Fly – leaving you an extra GBP94 to spend on your travels.

What else do I need to know? The travel vouchers come with limitations. There’s a minimum spend of GBP500 per voucher, and you can use one voucher per booking. They’re not valid on currency and must be used before the end of 2018.

Plus there’s an exit fee of GBP30 per fuel if you switch before the two-year tariff is up. Which? survey verdict: Co-operative Energy[9] ranked above the Big Six in our energy companies satisfaction survey. This is an improvement on recent years but it still has a way to go.

Customers did rate its bills, phone customer service, and value for money reasonably positively though.

Npower Take Time Out membership

Npower is offering a free Take Time Out membership on all of its tariffs at present. Worth GBP60 for a year (it costs the same to buy it direct from Take Time Out), it gives you discounts on restaurants, hotels, gyms and other entertainment. But with Npower’s cheapest tariff costing GBP1,011 per year, you can save far more than the value of the membership by switching to the cheapest deal on the market.

That’ll cost you a total of around GBP875 per year (including buying your own Take Time Out membership), saving you GBP136 per year. Npower[10] ranked in last position out of 31 firms in our latest energy satisfaction survey, as rated by its customers.

Other freebies: boiler care and lightbulbs

Among the other bigger energy companies, Scottish Power and Utility Warehouse are also offering freebies. Read on to find out whether Scottish Power’s boiler care deal, or Utility Warehouse’s free light bulb offer are worth your money.

Scottish Power Boiler Care Plus (March 2020)

How much does it cost? This tariff costs GBP1,207 per year for dual-fuel if you’re a medium user, including Boiler Care Plus[11].

This costs GBP18.90 per month to buy separately from Scottish Power. Should I switch? It works out about the same cost per year to buy Scottish Power’s Boiler Care Plus tariff, or pick its cheapest tariff and pay for Boiler Care separately. There’s a GBP7.60 difference per year.

Pick the cheapest tariff on the market however, and pay for Scottish Power’s Boiler Care separately, and you’ll save GBP167 per year. What else do I need to know? The boiler care package starts 21 days after you join the tariff. Find out more about boiler servicing contracts[12] and whether they’re worth it.

Which? survey verdict: Scottish Power[13] ranks jointly with British Gas, in 26th position out of 31 companies in our 2018 energy companies satisfaction survey. Customers only gave it two stars for its complaints handling.

Utility Warehouse

Utility Warehouse is offering to replace all the light bulbs in your home with LEDs if you’re a customer on its Gold Energy or Double Gold tariffs. How much does it cost? The cheaper of these is Double Gold, costing GBP1,074 per year for gas and electricity for a medium user.

Utility Warehouse states that replacing all your light bulbs typically costs GBP300-GBP500, including fitting. Should I switch? Using Utility Warehouse’s GBP300 cost for light bulbs and fitting, this works out GBP254 cheaper than its cheapest deal, per year. But we think you can save more by picking the cheapest deal on the market (GBP815 per year) and buying your own lightbulbs.

Which? tests have revealed Best Buy LED light bulbs[14] for as little as GBP4. Install 39 of them (the same number on which Utility Warehouse based its calculations) and fit them yourself (avoiding Utility Warehouse’s GBP100 fitting charge) and it will cost you GBP103 less per year than Utility Warehouse’s Double Gold tariff. What else do I need to know? Utility Warehouse says it will give you a lifetime guarantee for the bulbs it fits so you’ll not need to replace another light bulb, as long as you stay on its eligible tariff.

Which? survey verdict: Utility Warehouse[15] is the top-scoring energy supplier in our 2018 survey. Customers were impressed by its clear, accurate bills, phone customer service and value for money.

Our research

Pricing data is from Energylinx and based on a dual-fuel medium user (using Ofgem averages of 3,100kWh electricity and 12,000kWh gas per year), paying by direct debit with paperless bills. Data is averaged across regions and correct on 28 Jan 2018.

We looked at tariffs from energy firms with a 1% market share or more, according to energy regulator Ofgem’s data. First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita were not offering tariffs with freebies at the time of our research. Where tariffs are two years long, we’ve split the cost of the freebie equally over two years.

We subtracted the cost of the freebie, according to the company, from the total cost of the tariff, and compared the price with the company’s cheapest deal. We also compared this with the price of the freebie, bought elsewhere (where possible), and the cheapest deal on the market. If you are a low energy user, freebies will be worth more relative to the overall cost of the tariff.

So they could be better value if you don’t use much energy.

But if you’re a high-energy user, a freebie will be a smaller percentage saving on the overall tariff – you’ll probably be able to save even more by choosing the cheapest tariff on the market.

References

  1. ^ Compare gas and electricity prices (switch.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ here (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ tips to buy the best smart thermostat (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Amazon Echo (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ EDF Energy (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ Eon (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ British Gas (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ SSE (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ Co-operative Energy (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ Npower (www.which.co.uk)
  11. ^ Boiler Care Plus (www.which.co.uk)
  12. ^ boiler servicing contracts (www.which.co.uk)
  13. ^ Scottish Power (www.which.co.uk)
  14. ^ Best Buy LED light bulbs (www.which.co.uk)
  15. ^ Utility Warehouse (www.which.co.uk)

Prepay and vulnerable energy customers to see gas and electricity bills increase

Customers whose gas and electricity prices are capped will see GBP58 added to their bill over the next year on average, after energy regulator Ofgem announced it plans to increase the level of the cap. More than five million customers whose bills are limited by the regulator’s safeguard tariff will be affected. The average dual fuel bill will increase from GBP1,031 to GBP1,089 per year.

This will affect you if you have a prepayment meter for energy, or are among the one million vulnerable households to whom the cap also applies. The higher cap will apply from 1 April. Though your bills could rise, they’ll still be GBP42 cheaper per year than the average Big Six standard variable tariff, Which? research reveals.

Collectively, affected households will save GBP210 million.

Even if your bills are limited by the cap, you could still save even more money on energy – compare gas and electricity prices[1] with Which? Switch to find out how much.

How much does the energy cap save you?

The safeguard tariff is the maximum amount energy companies can charge customers who prepay for energy. Last week Ofgem extended the cap to almost one million additional vulnerable customers.

But energy companies can, and do, still charge less than the cap. The cap ensures bills are at least GBP42 cheaper per year than the average price paid by direct debit medium energy users on one of the Big Six energy firms’ standard variable tariffs. Around two thirds of customers are on these tariffs.

But the cap is GBP77 less than the priciest Big Six standard tariff (Npower[2]‘s), and still GBP12 cheaper than the cheapest Big Six standard tariff (from British Gas[3]). Plus you’re protected from overpaying GBP289 per year, compared with the cost of the priciest tariff currently on the market for a medium energy user. This is small supplier Glide[4]‘s Electricity and Gas tariff.

Why is the cap increasing?

Energy regulator Ofgem said higher gas and electricity costs were the reason for the increase.

It said that the bills of people protected by the safeguard tariff used to be among the highest in the market. Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, Alex Neill, said: ‘While it’s right that help is extended to vulnerable customers, an average saving of just GBP66 on people’s energy bills from April makes the safeguard tariff far from the cheapest deal on the market.

‘Anyone overpaying on a poor value tariff should look to switch away to a better deal immediately, as they may save up to GBP305 a year.’ Ofgem can change the level of the safeguard tariff every six months. It uses the estimated cost of supplying energy and changes in government policy costs to do this.

Our energy pricing research

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 with paperless bills.

Data correct on 7 Feb 2018.

References

  1. ^ compare gas and electricity prices (switch.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Npower (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ British Gas (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Glide (www.which.co.uk)

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)