A simples guide

Why Do I Have High Energy Bills?

We all love getting post but there’s one sort of post that we can pretty much guarantee nobody likes getting – bills. Most of the time we roughly know what to expect when we open them. But sometimes, a shocker lands on the doormat and it’s all you can do to stay standing as you read and re read the total amount you owe. So what could cause your bills to skyrocket from one month to the next?

Help – my energy bill’s too high and I don’t know why

 Before you panic and start running round the house unplugging every electrical item you have and start cooking on the charcoal barbecue instead of your gas hob, there may be some simple reasons why your bills have risen:

  •  You’re on an expensive tariff – check when you last switched supplier, it could be as simple as your previous tariff has ended and you’ve been moved to your supplier’s default standard tariff (which is usually more expensive).
  • You’ve just moved in – when the previous owners move out, the existing energy supplier will usually automatically switch the supply to a standard tariff so whilst you’d expect bills in your new home to be different to your last place – this could be the reason why your bills may be substantially more.
  • Estimated vs accurate billing – you’d think that all billing was accurate right? But it’s not. Estimated billing is when your supplier estimates what your energy consumption is and charges you accordingly. Those estimates can be higher or lower than what you’re actually using so try to provide regular meter readings for an accurate bill.
  • You’re on a variable tariff – with variable tariffs the amount of money you pay per unit of energy you consume will change according to certain criteria, but in most cases your provider should have informed you of any price change.
  • Faulty appliances – it could be that one of your appliances is at fault (perhaps that ancient washing machine or a fridge that’s started to make an irritatingly loud buzzing noise). But faulty appliances or even dodgy old wiring can sap electricity so if you’ve got any suspicions best get a professional to check it out.
  • Your meter doesn’t work – it doesn’t happen very often but it could be that your meter isn’t accurately recording your usage. If you genuinely think this is the reason (rather than just wishful thinking) contact your energy provider who’ll be able to get someone round to take a proper look.
  • Your consumption has changed – maybe you’re just using more energy. If it’s a particularly hot summer or cold winter it could be down to having air conditioning or heating on more often. It could also be that you’ve had people round to stay – in which case you’d naturally consume more energy between you or perhaps you’ve changed your lifestyle and are at home more. 

How do I know what tariff I’m actually on?

Your tariff should be easy to spot on your last bill or statement. It’s usually shown somewhere close to your customer reference number or within the ‘your account’ section.

It’s also handy to know what average households use in energy per month – that way you can get a rough gauge on whether you’re within the boundaries of what’s ‘normal’ or whether you need to start thinking of ways to save energy. You should be able to find out approximately what your monthly consumption is from your last bill. Energy use is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) so you need to look at that part of your bill.

high energy bills

How can I make sure I’m on the right tariff for my needs?

You’ll need to think about what you want from your energy supplier – standard tariffs for example will give you maximum flexibility as you can leave at any time without incurring exit charges – but you won’t get the supplier’s most competitive price.

Fixed rate tariffs set the amount of money you pay per kWh so while your bills will vary according to how much you use, the basic unit price of energy won’t change. So if your usage is pretty steady then your bills will be too. The drawback is that you won’t benefit from any reductions in wholesale energy prices for the fixed period you’ve agreed to.

Some providers will also offer what’s termed Economy 7/0 tariffs, which give you a certain number of hours ‘off-peak’ energy (usually at night or early morning). If you’re not around during the day and end up doing all your household jobs at night, this could work for you.

There’s pretty much a tariff for everyone – some online, which could be appealing to you, or even eco tariffs which do their bit for the environment. It’s important to decide what your priorities are and then look for your ideal tariff.