A simples guide

How can I tell how much gas and electricity I’m using?

The thing about energy is that we can’t really see it, and when you can’t really see something it’s difficult to get your head around how you can measure it. So when you get your energy bill through there’s probably a bit of scratching going on as you wonder what on earth it all means. So we thought we’d try and make things a bit less head scratchy and a bit more straightforward – here’s our simple guide on how you can monitor energy usage.

How is energy calculated?

Energy usage is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) and you’re charged for every kWh you use (a kWh is sometimes known as a unit of energy). In addition to the cost of energy you’ll also be billed a ‘daily standing charge’. This is what your energy provider adds on for you to be connected to their supply.

All electrical items are rated for power in watts or kilowatts and the amount of electricity consumed depends on how long it’s on for. Usually the big appliances that are on for most of the time like your fridge or freezer don’t actually use up that much electricity – it’s the little ones or those that you use every now and again that eat into your electricity use.

If you really wanted to get into the nitty gritty of it all then think of it like this – a tumble dryer for example typically uses between 2,000 and 3,000 watts or 2-3 kW. If we take the lower end of this (2kWh) and say you ran the dryer for two hours and were charged around 16p per kWh you used; your tumble dryer would cost you 64p to run. That doesn’t sound like much but if you ran the tumble dryer two days each week for a year, that works out at more than £60 every year. Suddenly it’s quite easy to see how the bill adds up. Plus, don’t forget appliances like electric showers (around 7,000-10,000 watts), your oven that on average uses (2,000-2,200 watts) and even the humble kettle uses between (2,200 and 3,000 watts) every time you use it.

And what about my bills?

There are two types of bills – estimated bills and accurate bills. Estimated bills are where your provider has approximated the reading on your meter and charged you based on that – this could be lower than what you’ve actually used and will result in you being charged less. While being charged less is great news, once your meter reading’s been taken and an accurate assessment’s been made, your bills will increase to reflect that. If you haven't got a smart meter, then here's how you can get one

You should be able to spot whether a bill’s estimated or not as it should show an ‘e’ or ‘estimate’ next to the reading on your bill. If you want an accurate measurement and cost of what you actually used, send your supplier monthly meter readings.

Your bill should make it clear for what period you’re being billed for and how many units of energy you’re being charged for. Suppliers as a rule have to inform you if you could switch to a cheaper tariff, this is probably in small print on your bill, so it’s definitely worth reading carefully.

What’s this about a smart meter?

These are the meters of the not too distant future and there’s an official smart meter roll out to as many households as possible scheduled to take place between April 2016 and 2020. So why are they so smart? Well, these new meters will mean no more inaccurate bills because they’ll tell your energy provider exactly how much energy you’ve used (they’ll do this using signals similar to how your mobile phone works).

Smart meters also come with an ‘in home display’ unit which will tell you exactly how much energy you’re using in real time. As smart meters are in constant communication with your energy supplier, providers will also be able to determine peak times and adjust energy output accordingly (so no more funny dips in lighting as the whole nation puts their kettle on in the ad break). And because you can see how much energy you’re using, it should also encourage you to use it wisely – saving the environment and you, money (win-win)!

How can I tell how much gas & electricity I'm using?

Compare and save

Switching has never been easier – some switches can take just 21 days to complete and like our customers in May 2018, you could save on average £350* a year on your energy bill, which is enough to buy a new more energy efficient tumble dryer. Just compare online and make the switch today.

*Based on OFGEM Bills, prices and profits data at May 2018. Switching savings are based on a customer with typical domestic consumption moving from an average available variable tariff with one of the six large suppliers, to the cheapest available dual fuel tariff in the market.