When your energy bill slides through your letterbox—or increasingly, if you’ve opted for paperless billing to save money and the environment, appears in your email inbox or your supplier’s customer portal— you might be tempted to ignore it. Shove it in a pile of other bills and assume the direct debit you set up to earn a discount is doing its work.
But we’d encourage you to open and actually read your energy bills, no matter how you’re paying. Leave bills unopened and you may never know if you’re being overcharged for your gas and electricity use, being inaccurately billed, or if your fixed rate term has quietly ended, pushing you onto a more expensive standard variable rate.
Here’s a few more reasons you should always open that envelope or email from your energy supplier:
- To keep tabs on your gas and electricity use, especially if you don’t have a smart meter, and ensure you’re not accidentally over consuming
- To keep track of your gas and electricity tariffs and whether you’re still in contract on a fixed rate plan
- To be aware of the end date of your fixed term deal
- To keep abreast of any price hikes from your supplier
- To ensure you’re being accurately billed
- To check if you could save money by switching. Your energy bill will provide all the information you need to compare energy tariffs, including details of your annual consumption, and even information about how your tariff compares to others on the market.
Parts of Your Bill
We’ve covered why you should open your energy bills, but what do they actually say and how do you make sense of the numbers?
The most important figure on your energy bill will be the amount you owe your supplier. You’ll either be in debit to the supplier, meaning you’ll need to pay your supplier, or you’ll be in credit, meaning the supplier owes you. If you’re in credit, you might be able to claim money back from your supplier, but it will often be easier to keep the money on your account to be used toward a future and possibly higher energy bill, such as one during the winter months.
Whether you’re in debit or credit will depend on amounts you have previously paid and your consumption. To ensure you’re being charged accurately, supply regular meter readings to your supplier or accept a smart meter when you’re offered one, which can do the work for you.
The amount you’re charged for the time period of the bill (which will be listed at the top) will be calculated from the following figures
- your use (in kilowatt hours) x the unit rate: You will be charged a set rate for each unit (1 kWH of electricity or gas) you use. The unit rate will depend on where you live, which supplier you use, and if you’re on a fixed or variable tariff.
- standing charges: the amount your supplier charges you to maintain your connection and service your account. This will be the same no matter how much energy you use.
- discounts: You may rack up discounts on your bill by paying by direct debit or using a dual fuel tariff, getting your gas and electricity from the same supplier.
- tax: Gas and electricity are subject to VAT at 5%.
At the top of your bill, you should see the dates of the time period it covers. This will generally be a month.
Your energy consumption
Your bill will include information about the amount of gas and electricity you’ve used since your last bill, represented in kWh. This figure will either be actual or estimated. If it’s actual, you—or a smart meter—have supplied meter readings so your provider can determine exactly how much gas and/or electricity you’ve used. Estimated figures are based on your past typical use and are used because you haven’t given your supplier a recent meter reading. You should always provide your supplier with regular meter readings to ensure you aren’t being charged for energy you aren’t using.
This figure tells you how much your energy is likely to cost over the next 12 months, based on your previous usage and current plan. You can use this information to compare your supplier with others on the market and consider switching for savings.
Your tariff versus others on the market
Your bill should also provide you with information about your current tariff, including how long any fixed rate deals last. It will also include a tariff comparison rate, allowing you to compare your tariff to others on the market.
Your account number
You’ll need this identifying number when communicating with your supplier, for instance to resolve issues with your bill