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Frequently thought questions

Energy can be confusing. There’s a wealth of information out there about how we can be more efficient with it and how we can save money on it, but there is such a thing as too much information, and we can be left befuddled and bemused by it.

But it doesn’t have to be a headache, we’re here to help. So, here are some frequently thought questions you might have had about fuel – here goes.

What is 'fuel'?

Fuel is the stuff used to heat and power your home – like electricity, gas, oil and wood.

We can’t help you with your wood burning stove or your massive great oil tank if you’re out in the sticks but we can help you compare gas, electricity and renewable energy.

How is gas and electricity fuel measured?

Electricity and gas companies measure your fuel consumption in different ways. Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) whilst gas is measured in ‘cubic metres’ or, if your meter is old school, it’ll show ‘cubic feet’. But whether it’s cubic metres or feet, your energy supplier will convert your gas use into kWh on your bill.

To put it all into context, a medium sized house uses on average approximately 12,500kWh of gas and 3,100kWh of electricity annually.

How do energy suppliers decide on their fuel prices?

This can be tricky. Energy companies compete on cost and service to win your business and their standard charge for fuel can vary from month to month.

Your bill is made up of the unit rate of energy plus your standing charge, which is fixed, regardless of how much or how little fuel you use.

The unit cost of your gas or electricity is influenced by its wholesale price – which is what your supplier has to pay for it. But on top of the actual raw cost of the energy, providers also need to factor in things like the cost of transporting fuel, government levies, VAT as well as their own profit and operating costs. Energy is a competitive market and prices change all the time, which is why it can be wise to opt for a fixed rate tariff.

What sort of fuel tariffs are there?

There are lots of different fuel (or energy) tariffs and they can vary greatly between suppliers, even if they have the same or similar names.

Some of the more common tariffs include:


- Standard variable tariff – these are flexible and you can leave at any time without having to pay any exit fees. The downside is that prices can fluctuate wildly depending on what the market is doing – not great if you like to plan and budget.
- Fixed rate tariff – your bills still go up or down but that depends on how much energy you’ve used. The unit cost of your energy remains the same, so if you’re pretty consistent with your usage, then it can help you budget.
- Dual fuel – this is where you buy both your gas and electricity from the same supplier. It can be cheaper because suppliers often discount to get more of your custom, but it doesn’t always work out that way – so, always compare before you sign on the dotted line.

Find more information about these tariffs and what else is on offer – such as capped, online and green tariffs in our Energy tariffs explained guide.

Can switching energy suppliers save me money?

Yes, it could. Time and again, data shows that loyalty doesn’t pay – it’s a sad truth, but that’s life. On average, customers could save up to £221** on their annual energy bill by switching supplier.

How can I pay for fuel?

Your bills can be paid through direct debit, monthly, quarterly or they can be paid as and when they drop through the letterbox.

Energy suppliers like you to pay via direct debit and may offer discounts and incentives if you pay this way.

You can also pay for your energy through a prepayment meter – it’s a bit like a pay as you go mobile where you pay upfront before you use it. You can top up your meter using a special key or tokens.

Prepayments meters are good in the sense that you won’t accumulate big bills, but it’s probably the most expensive way to buy your fuel.

How long does it take to switch fuel?

Switching can happen in as little as 21 days, but can take up to six weeks which is a far cry from the months it used to take before the government and Ofgem sorted it out.

If you want to find out how long it might take to change suppliers, take a look at our guide to switching times.

Will I be without energy if I switch fuel?

Definitely not, so put those worries aside. The Energy switch guarantee is there is make sure that switches are quick, easy and hiccup free.

Whoever supplies your fuel will use the same pipes and wires so there’ll be no faffing around changing equipment. The only thing you should notice are cheaper bills.

What information do I need to switch fuel?

It’s best to have a recent energy bill to hand – because all the answers to the questions we’ll ask you, will be in there – such as:


- Who your current supplier is
- Your current tariff name
- Your energy consumption in kWh or in pounds
- Whether bills are paid monthly or quarterly

If you struggle to decipher your bill when it comes, then rest assured you aren’t the only one – just read our Understanding your bill guide and you’ll be an expert in no time.

How can I compare energy fuel providers?

That’s the easy bit – answer some questions and wait for the results.

When you’ve told us what you’re looking for, we’ll present you with a selection of tariffs based on your needs. All you need to do is decide which one you like the look of.

Extra details can be found by clicking ‘more details’ and if you decide to go for it, you can switch online.

It’s a good idea to consider what it is you’re after – we know you want to save money, but think about what else is important to you. For example, you might want an energy supplier that supports environmental projects or sources green energy. Or, you might be a stickler for customer service. Knowing what you want can help you make that all-important decision.

But whatever it is you’re after – let us help you. You can complete a comparison with us in the time it takes to boil the kettle and make a cuppa, and if you have a smartphone, it’s even easier. Download our Snapt app – it can read your bill and retrieve quotes in just a few seconds – try it and see how much you could save.

**50% of people could achieve a saving of £221 on their duel fuel energy costs based on comparethemarket.com data in May 2017