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Understanding your electricity or gas bill

There’s a lot of useful information on your home energy bill – you just need to know what to look for. Here’s how to interpret your gas and electricity bills, so that you can see what you’re spending, check for better deals and find all the information you need to switch energy suppliers.

There’s a lot of useful information on your home energy bill – you just need to know what to look for. Here’s how to interpret your gas and electricity bills, so that you can see what you’re spending, check for better deals and find all the information you need to switch energy suppliers.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
17 APRIL 2020
7 min read
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The information on your energy bill

Ofgem regulations state that all energy suppliers must provide their customers with informative bills. That means your bill must include key information about the tariff you’re on and how much energy you use. These are some of the pieces of information you’ll see:

  • Your account details - such as the name of the account holder and the address the bill is for
  • Your tariff name – the energy plan you’re currently on
  • Your energy use shown in kilowatt hours – shortened to kWh. You’re charged for every kWh you use. If you get a combined gas and electricity bill, the bill will include a breakdown of your consumption for each fuel type
  • The period you’re being billed for – e.g. last month or the previous three months. This should be shown alongside, or close to, the amount of energy you’ve used. It will also show if it's based on an estimate or on an actual meter reading  
  • The amount you owe - which is usually on the first page of your bill. If you pay by direct debit, the amount could be a credit or a debit, depending on how much energy you’ve used – i.e. it could be that you’ve used less than you’ve paid for and your supplier owes you money (you’re in credit) or that you have underpaid for the energy you’ve used (you’re in debit)
  • Terms and conditions - with a summary of any key points in your agreement with your provider, such as whether you’ll pay any exit fees if you change to a different tariff or supplier
  • An estimation of the next 12 months’ cost - based on your current tariff and calculated from your current usage. If you increase or decrease your energy consumption, then your bills will change accordingly.

Why is there a QR code on my energy bill?

You may find a QR code as a part of your energy bill. This was a feature introduced by the Government, so customers can quickly access the details on their bills, and simply find more information about their energy use etc. All you need is a smartphone with a QR reader app, before you can quickly review your details from a paper bill.

How can I pay my gas and electric bill?

There are a number of ways you can pay your energy bills:

  • Direct debit – taken automatically from your bank account
  • On receipt of bill – when you receive your bill you can pay it either online, over the phone, or with your bank
  • A pre-paid card or meter – you ‘top up’ a card, key or token at a payment point, which then credits your account.

How often do you pay gas and electric bills?

It depends on your payment method. A direct debit can be taken either monthly or quarterly (every three months). If you pay on the receipt of your bill, this tends to be a quarterly arrangement. If you choose to pre-pay for your energy use, you are able to choose when you pay, but your account must always be in credit to use energy.

Is there a cheaper tariff available?

If your supplier offers an alternative tariff that would have made your energy cheaper, they must inform you on your bill. Usually this will be under a heading “Could you pay less?” This section will tell you whether you’re on your supplier’s cheapest tariff and, if not, how much you could save by switching.

You may be tempted to just focus on that one big number on your energy bill, but you could be missing out if you don’t take the time to read it fully. Take a look at the surrounding information to see if you’re getting the best deal from your supplier.

Of course, this doesn’t tell you whether cheaper tariffs are available from a different supplier. For that, just keep your bill to hand and compare gas and electricity prices with us.

Supplied, actual and estimated meter readings on your utility bill

Your bill is calculated either from a meter reading or an estimated meter reading. If it’s estimated, suppliers usually send round a meter reader once or twice a year or ask you to supply the reading, then send through an actual bill.

  • If you supplied the meter reading there’ll be a ‘C’ or ‘your reading’ beside the meter reading on the bill
  • If someone came to read the meter, then the reading on the bill will be marked ‘actual’
  • If the bill is based on an estimate there will be an ‘E’ or ‘estimated’ next to the figure

If your bill is based on an estimated reading, it might not be accurate. If it seems particularly high, contact your supplier and give them an accurate reading of your meter. It could result in a recalculation.

Good news though – if you opt for a smart meter you can say goodbye to estimated bills as your meter reading will always be up to date. 

Your unique meter numbers

Both your electricity meter and your gas meter have a unique number that tells your energy provider where your supply point is located. These numbers are sometimes written at the bottom of your bill or near your energy consumption.

Your electricity meter has an MPAN (metering point administration number), also called a supply number or S number. On your bill, your MPAN might be presented in a series of boxes, with a large S in front and two rows of numbers, like this:

  • S01012345

  • 678910 1234567

An MPAN has 21 digits, but you generally only need the last 13 – the ones on the bottom row.

Your gas meter has an MPRN (metering point reference number), also called an M number. MPRNs are 6-10 digits long.

If you want to switch your energy provider, you might need to provide your MPAN and MPRN if your exact meter readings can’t be located during the switching process. 

What is paperless billing?

Paperless billing is simply the transferring of your bills from a traditional printed letter, to an e-bill, normally in the form of an email. Switching to this format will send you notifications when your bill is ready to view, which normally provides you with quicker access than waiting for your letter to arrive. It can also be a good way of keeping your bills safe, as you can save them all digitally, while saving paper waste at the same time.

How to compare energy deals using your bill

All you need is your postcode to get a quote with us. From your address, we can get an estimation of your electricity usage to look for deals in minutes. If you have a recent energy bill to hand, it will contain all the information you need to get a more accurate quote. You can then compare deals from different energy providers to see if you could save money by switching.

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