A simples guide

Energy tariffs explained

How often do you check your household bills?  Do you know what tariff you’re on or how much you’re spending? Or do you just avoid checking them because they’re a reminder of the money you have to part with? Or maybe you just don’t have the time? Whatever the reason, checking your energy bill is a quick and easy way of knowing whether you’re on the best tariff for you. This page will help explain the different tariffs available to help you find the right one for you and switch to the right deal.

There are so many tariffs – how do I know what’s right for me?

Understanding energy tariffs doesn’t have to be mind boggling, it’s just a question of finding the right tariff for you. Energy suppliers may give their tariffs fancy names but they’ll largely fall into one of these categories.

Energy tariffs explained

Standard (or variable) tariff

This is a variable tariff so prices can go up or down. If you signed up with your supplier on a particular deal which has since ended and you’ve not switched, you’ll probably have ended up on this tariff.

Standard tariffs are flexible because they’re typically the supplier’s default pricing plan, there won’t usually be any exit or cancellation fees and you should be free to leave at any point. However, although you’ve got the flexibility to switch at a moment’s notice, the tariff probably won’t offer the supplier’s best price and cancellation fees on fixed tariffs are often just £30.

Fixed rate tariffs

Under this tariff, you’ll pay a fixed rate for your energy for a set period of time (usually 12 to 18 months). After this you’re free to switch and save again, but if you leave early, you’ll probably be charged an exit fee.

Fixed rates are good if you like to play it safe and be able to plan your expenses to the last digit, the rates you’ll pay will probably be lower than those of the standard tariff too.

What is a capped energy tariff?

Your energy price is capped at a certain point – and it won’t go over this agreed amount. Prices can go down as well as up – but not beyond your capped limit. This might be for you if you like a certain amount of stability when it comes to planning because it means you’ll be protected from any big price increases. The flipside of this though, is that it probably won’t be the cheapest tariff and you may be charged a cancellation fee if you leave before the contract end date.

Dual fuel tariff

With a dual fuel tariff you’ll get both your gas and electricity from one supplier, which can make life much easier. You’ll usually benefit from some more price deals too as suppliers may give you a discount in order to get double your custom.

But don’t get too complacent, it’s worth checking what deals you could get if you signed up for gas and electricity separately – those savings might outweigh any discount you’re offered for both. Depending on the terms of your agreement, you may also be charged an exit or cancellation fee.

Online tariff

If you feel more comfortable managing your accounts online, then this is the option for you. With an online tariff you’ll manage your account online only. Online tariffs tend to be the cheapest option but it does mean all your correspondence and billing will be online.

Perhaps not for you if you like to file your paper bills away each month and like the security of paper letters. It’s also worth noting that online tariffs don’t have customer call centres, so you won’t be able to speak to someone if you have an issue.

Green tariff

If you like to do your bit for the environment, this could be the one for you. Green tariffs can work in a number of ways. One option is that whatever amount of energy you use will be ‘given back’ by your supplier to the National Grid in renewable energy. Alternatively, they may supply your home with 100% renewable energy, a mix of renewable and non-renewable or they may contribute to environmental projects instead.

Green tariffs aren’t necessarily always the most expensive but they probably will charge slightly higher than average prices (having principles doesn’t come cheap you know). Definitely worth investigating if you are concerned about how your energy consumption effects the environment.

Economy 7, Economy 10, or time of use tariff

With both Economy 7 and 10 tariffs you’ll typically get cheaper ‘off peak’ energy for either seven or ten hours a day. Economy 7 usually has it’s off peak hours around midnight and 7am, whereas Economy 10 spreads its cheapest hours throughout the day at set times.

Off peak energy can be cheap and you’ll get a special meter to monitor rates, but whatever you use outside of these times will be charged at a much higher cost. If you know you won’t change your habits to make the most of the discounted rates, think before you switch.. Suppliers may offer other timed tariffs if this is something that would work for your household.

what are economy 7, 10 and time of use tariffs?

Pre-payment tariffs

This is the energy equivalent of a pay as you go phone, you’ll need a pre-payment meter and pay for the energy before you use it by topping up the meter online, with a key, card or tokens dependant on supplier. It’s usually the most expensive way to pay for your energy but it does give you total control over what you’re using and spending.

Feed in tariff

This is when energy suppliers pay you because you produce your own energy, whether it’s from solar panels or wind (no sniggering) turbines. Being paid to generate your own energy is great but you’ll need to buy and fit the equipment needed which can be costly.

Getting the right deal

Everyone wants to get the right deal for them and that’s where we come in. Use our energy comparison service to compare your options and find the right deal for you.