A guide to switching energy suppliers

As energy costs can still be a significant portion of a household’s total bills, consider switching your tariff or supplier to get a great deal on gas and electricity. 

As energy costs can still be a significant portion of a household’s total bills, consider switching your tariff or supplier to get a great deal on gas and electricity. 

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Last Updated
25 MAY 2023
13 min read
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The current UK energy crisis explained

An increase in demand after the coronavirus pandemic initially caused wholesale gas prices to rise. The energy crisis worsened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with worldwide supplies of gas and oil affected and prices skyrocketing.

Unfortunately, the increased price of wholesale energy forced energy suppliers to pass these costs on to UK consumers. 

In response, the government introduced the Energy Price Guarantee, to protect people from spiralling energy prices.

If you’re still interested in finding out more about how you could switch energy suppliers in future, or would like to find out what to do if your supplier goes bust, we’ve got you covered.

What to do when your energy supplier goes bust

Unfortunately due to the energy pricing crisis, many smaller energy suppliers went out of business. And although this situation has stabilised, it could happen again. If this affects to you, don’t panic. Ofgem has protective measures in place to look after customers. You won’t need to do much, but here’s what you will need to do:

  • Take a meter reading – while Ofgem is sorting out your transfer to a new supplier, it’s a good idea to take a meter reading. This means you have a record of your energy usage to provide to them when they get in touch. 
  • Wait – Ofgem will sort out your transfer to a new supplier for you, so you just need to wait. Once they’ve arranged it all, your new supplier will get in touch to confirm the details. 
  • Talk to your new supplier – once the switch is complete and you’ve heard from your new supplier, you’ll probably find out you’ve been placed on their variable tariff. This is usually their most expensive, so you might want to ask about switching to their cheapest tariff, or shop around and find a better deal. Unfortunately, during the current energy pricing crisis, there aren’t many ‘good’ deals available right now. 

If your energy supplier goes bust, you don’t need to worry about your supply being cut off. Ofgem will arrange the whole thing for you. If you want to find out more, you can find more information about what happens when your energy supplier goes bust.

How do I switch energy suppliers?

Switching energy providers is easy and you’ll never lose your supply in the process – guaranteed. You can switch gas or electricity only, or switch both together on a dual fuel deal.  

Follow these simple steps to see if switching suppliers is worth your while:

  1. Find a recent bill – to get the most accurate quote, you’ll need to provide information about your current energy use and what tariff you’re on 
  2. Get a quote – when we have our energy comparison service up and running again, use it to get a quote in minutes 
  3. Compare tariffs – using our comparison tool, you’ll be able to compare tariffs from a range of energy providers, and see if you could be getting a better deal from your current supplier
  4. Start switching – once you’ve chosen a new tariff and started your switch application, wait to hear instructions from the energy supplier – this could take up to 14 days because you’ll still be in the cooling off period. You’ll need to give your new supplier meter readings on, or close to, the day of your switch
  5. Pay the last bill – you’ll get one final bill from your old energy supplier. Make sure to get a refund from them if you’re in credit.

What do I need to know if I want to switch energy suppliers? 

The minimum amount of information you need to switch energy suppliers is how much you currently pay for your gas and electricity supply, and who your supplier is. You’ll also need basic details like your address and postcode.

If you want a more accurate quote, you'll need to know what tariff you're on and what your annual usage is – you'll find this in your online account or on an old energy bill. With all these details, most websites should show you the exit fee of your current tariff, which you’ll have to factor into your quote.

If the exit charge outweighs any savings you might make, wait until you receive a notice from your supplier that the contract is coming to an end. This should arrive 42-49 days before the last day of your contract. If you decide to switch during the final 49 days, you can't be charged for leaving.

When’s the best time to switch energy suppliers?

Choosing the right time to switch energy providers can be tricky – especially when prices are volatile. You might be alerted to the fact that you could be paying less by your supplier on your bill. However, you might find the best time to switch is:

  • When you haven’t switched at the end of a fixed contract period. Cheaper ‘new customer’ deals often expire after a set period, changing to a standard or default tariff. These tariffs are typically a lot more expensive.   
  • Before winter arrives, if you’re not on a fixed-term tariff. Most people use less energy over the summer, so it can be tricky to get a real grasp of your energy costs. Comparing prices in the warmer, lighter months could ensure you get a cheaper tariff before winter sets in and your energy use rises.   
  • When you suspect prices are about to rise. You’ll often hear rumours of a predicted energy price rise in the news. And when one energy provider announces a tariff increase, others usually follow suit. When prices are rising, taking out a fixed price tariff can be a good option – guaranteeing your rate for anything between one and five years, depending on the deal. But be careful about switching to a standard variable tariff when prices are on the up. That’s because it’s possible a tariff rise hasn’t yet been factored into the variable rate.   
  • Just before your deal ends. It should take 21 days or less to switch energy providers, if they’re signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG). That’s because the ESG guarantees a switch in that time period. When you compare energy suppliers with Comparethemarket, we’ll show you which suppliers are part of the Energy Switch Guarantee.  
  • Changing before your current deal ends could save you from having to pay a few weeks of increased standard tariffs. Your switching window opens 49 days before the end of your contract. Energy regulator Ofgem states that exit fees shouldn’t apply if you switch from a fixed-term contract to another supplier, within that window. Your energy provider should write to you 42 to 49 days before your fixed tariff period ends, so you’ll know when to start looking.   
  • When you move home. Moving home is the perfect opportunity to reassess your energy needs. A change in the number of rooms, different heating systems and even appliances could alter your usage. Switching to a different tariff might suit your needs better.   
  • When your circumstances change. For example, if you’re on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff and you retire from work, your power usage during the day is likely to increase. Kids flying the nest can also change when and how you use energy. You might be able to find a different tariff that suits your new homelife better.   
  • If you’ve paid off a supplier debt. Some providers won't let you switch while you still owe them a long-term debt. Once you’ve managed to clear it, it could be worth shopping around for a cheaper deal.   
  • When you want more than just a competitively priced tariff. If you’re unhappy with the service you receive from your current supplier, there are plenty of suppliers offering good levels of customer service.    
  • If you’re on a normal tariff and you want to do your bit for the planet, switching to a green tariff could help you do that. 

When shouldn’t you change energy suppliers?

You shouldn't change energy providers if you have to pay a penalty or exit fee to leave your current contract, and the penalty is larger than any potential savings you could make. And you shouldn’t change while you’re working out whether there are better energy suppliers for you. However, if going green is part of the reason you’re switching, maybe a slightly higher price or exit fee isn’t so much of an issue.

How long does it take to switch energy suppliers? 

Switching energy suppliers should take no more than five working days. That’s thanks to the Government-backed Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG), which most are signed up to. Your new energy supplier will provide you with an expected date for your switchover, so that it’s clear. Soon however, switches could be made within as little as five days, as the energy industry is moving towards a ‘Faster Switching’ model. 
  
If you don’t hear anything for up to 14 days, don’t worry. Some energy suppliers will wait until the cooling off period has passed to start the switching process.  
  
There won’t be any disruption to your supply on the day of the switch, as your gas and electricity will come into your home through the same pipes and wires, whoever supplies it. The only thing you’ll notice are (hopefully) lower bills and a different supplier name. 

Can I switch energy supplier at any time? 

You can switch energy supplier whenever you like, but it’s more a case of “should you?” Lots of energy tariffs have exit fees tied to them, which means, if you’re still within the agreed contract period, you’ll need to pay a fee to leave.

These have increased during the energy crisis, with fees of up to £150 per fuel type put in place by some suppliers. So depending on your tariff, you’ll have to do your sums to see if the potential savings on offer will make it worth it.

As for the best time to switch energy supplier, that would be when your fixed contract is ending, and you’re about to be put on the supplier’s standard variable tariff.

This is the worst place to be, as they’re usually the most expensive tariffs out there. If you’re currently on a standard variable tariff, you should be looking to switch as soon as possible. But as we’ve already said, it’s not a great time to switch right now because of the energy crisis.

How many times can I switch my energy supplier? 

There’s no limit to the amount of times you can switch energy supplier, but it’s not always a good idea to do so. Exit fees are common with energy tariffs, which means, if you’re not in the cooling off period or at the end of your contract, you’ll need to pay to leave. However, if the savings you can get with another supplier are more than the exit fees to leave, you might want to go ahead anyway. 

What if I change my mind about switching?

You’ll get a 14-day cooling off period in case you change your mind. This is a legal requirement and it begins the day after you agree a contract (whether face-to-face, online or over the phone). 

Can I switch if I owe money to my current supplier? 

You may be able to switch suppliers if you owe money to your current supplier (sometimes called ‘energy debt’). If you’ve been in debt to your supplier for fewer than 28 days, you can still switch - your old energy supplier will add what you owe to your final bill. However, if you have debts more than 28 days old, you’ll need to pay these off to your old supplier before you can switch. 

If you’re on a pre-payment meter and you owe £500 or less, you can ask for your outstanding balance to be transferred to your new energy supplier, under the Debt Assignment Protocol (DAP).

Can I switch energy suppliers if I rent? 

Yes, usually you can switch energy suppliers if you rent. As a tenant, you have the right to switch if you pay your supplier directly for the energy you use. Your landlord may have named a ‘preferred supplier’ in the rental agreement, but this won’t affect your right to switch. However, it’s worth letting your landlord know if you’re going to switch energy suppliers.  
  
If you don’t have a smart meter and you pick a tariff that requires one to be installed, you’ll need to ask permission from your landlord.  
  
You don’t have the right to switch supplier if your landlord pays your energy bills and then charges you. But you can always ask your landlord to change energy provider.  

How do I switch energy suppliers if I’m moving home?  

Moving can be the perfect opportunity to find a better deal and switch supplier. You’ll need to give your current supplier notice, ideally at least two days before you move.  
  
If you’re happy with the deal you’ve got, you just need to tell your supplier where you’re moving to and the date of the move.  
  
Whether or not you’re changing energy supplier, take a meter reading just before you leave your home and submit it to your existing supplier. That way you only pay for the energy you used, when your final bill for that property comes through.  
  
Once you’ve moved, take a meter reading in your new home and give it to the energy provider who supplies your new home. If you’ve decided to switch energy suppliers and haven’t carried your old tariff over, you’ll automatically be put on the new supplier’s default standard variable-rate tariff. These tend to be the most expensive tariffs, so it could be a good idea to compare prices and find something cheaper as soon as possible.

What types of gas and electricity tariffs can I choose when switching suppliers? 

Energy suppliers offer a variety of both single and dual fuel tariffs, so there’s bound to be one that suits your household. When thinking about tariff type, consider what’s important to you. For example, do you have a set budget or is flexibility more important to you than price? Also, don’t assume that getting your energy from one of the well-known providers means better prices and service. It’s usually worth shopping around.  

Whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help you with our guide to energy tariffs explained.

Read our guide on energy tariffs explained

Will I get a smart meter if I switch suppliers? 

It depends on what stage your chosen energy supplier is at with their smart meter roll-out. A UK Government-led initiative requires energy suppliers to install smart meters in most UK homes by the end of 2025.

Smart meters use a mobile signal to send data to your supplier, so you don’t have to submit gas or electricity meter readings. The meter also sends energy usage information to an in-home display. Typically, the in-home display will let you know how much energy you’re currently using, for gas and electricity. The idea is that this real-time information could help you save energy and money. It’s also your way of helping the UK energy industry upgrade our energy system and reduce the levels of wasted energy.   

Find out more about the smart meter roll-out and what it means for you in our guide to smart meters.

Read our guide to smart meters

Can I switch suppliers if I have solar panels? 

Having solar panels shouldn’t stop anyone from switching energy supplier.

If you generate your own energy through solar panels, you may be getting money back under what’s known as the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) scheme. This is now closed to new applicants. Its successor is the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).
   
SEG allows anyone generating their own low-carbon energy to earn money for the energy they put back into the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met. This includes energy generated through solar panels and wind turbines. By law, all energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers have to offer an SEG tariff, while smaller companies also have the choice to opt in.
   
The supplier who makes your SEG payments doesn’t have to be the same one that you buy energy from - and you’re free to switch. If you want to, you can also switch your SEG licensee, provided you have a new one ready to take you on.
   
People who joined FIT before the scheme closed to new applicants on 31 March 2019, will continue to receive payments for the agreed period (usually 20 years).

Can I switch to a renewable energy supplier for my electricity?

Yes. It’s entirely your choice which supplier you switch to.
Renewable energy is booming in the UK. At the end of June 2022, renewable electricity generation represented 38.6% of total electricity generation.

Some energy firms source 100% of their energy from renewables, such as wind or sunlight. Others offer a mix of green energy and energy from traditional fossil fuel sources. Check the terms and conditions, which should give you a breakdown of what comes from where. 
  
Most renewable energy tariffs now cost about the same as a regular tariff, which is great news if you’re looking to go green. However, some of the ‘gold standard’ energy tariffs can be more expensive than the others, so it isn’t always affordable if you’re on a really tight budget. If you want to do your bit for the environment in other ways, consider paperless billing instead, or look for suppliers that invest money in environmental projects.

Is switching energy suppliers worth it? 

Switching energy supplier might seem like a hassle, making it tempting to stay with who you know, but under normal circumstances, there are potentially big savings to be made by switching. If you’re coming to the end of your existing deal, or are already on the supplier’s standard variable tariff, it’s almost certainly worth switching, because those tariffs are among the worst on the market.

Besides, switching energy suppliers is much easier than it used to be. When it's up and running again, you can compare energy suppliers in minutes with our comparison service, and then your new supplier will take care of the whole switch for you.

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