The gas and electricity market has never been more competitive than it is today. With over 40 energy suppliers currently, you have plenty of options to switch and find the right supplier. But when is the best time to look for cheap energy deals so you don’t pay early exit fees, and to keep the dreaded winter usage costs down?
When is the best time to switch energy supplier?
There is no limit to how many times you can switch energy suppliers. The best time to switch is when your current contract or tariff is due to end. This is 49 days (7 weeks) before the end date. Here you won’t have to pay any penalty fees. However, if you are in debt, your current supplier can charge you or even stop you from leaving.
It’s also best to move to a cheaper deal before the winter starts and you use more energy, as you make the most savings at this time.
Why switching to a better tariff is important
With people working and spending more time at home, annual energy bills will be even higher than before, adding around £100 to your normal costs. If you are able to save this amount with a cheaper tariff without cutting down your usage drastically, it will clearly help your financial situation.
Being on a standard tariff is beneficial only to the supplier financially, not to you.
It’s a good idea to be up to date with cheaper tariffs elsewhere. The quickest way to do this is to use energy comparison sites. Read our energy switching guide here.
Best time to switch energy suppliers
If you have always been with the same supplier
If you have never switched suppliers there is no better time to switch than right now. Because it’s highly likely you are on an expensive tariff and almost certainly will save money (enough to make a difference) by looking for and switching to a different supplier.
If there is a big change in your usage
Circumstances can change like installing gas central heating to replace electric storage heaters, or your work habits significantly change so you’re working from home more etc Any major event like these is a very good time to look for a better tariff and switch supplier if necessary.
When your supplier increases prices
There is only a short timeframe and you have to be quick but if your supplier puts up their prices, it is highly likely others will too.
But if you can look to switch suppliers and go on one of their fixed tariffs, it will protect you at the lower rates for a year or so.
When you move home
You don’t have to stay with the current supplier in your new home and this is an ideal time to look for a cheaper tariff, where you can start afresh on a new deal. Many things will change in your new house including size, energy efficiency, cavity and loft insulation and all of these impacts on your energy usage.
Before the winter starts
Energy bills are determined by how much you use and this is based on how cold the weather is. The winter months account for the majority of heating so your winter bills will be higher, about a third higher . If you are able to switch to a cheaper tariff before then, it could save you a considerable amount.
If your account is in debt before winter starts
The way direct debit is calculated means you pay the same amount during each month even though you use more in winter and less in summer.
By the time the winter months start, you are expected to be in credit on your account because you have used less than you have paid, and this credit is used up during the winter period. But if you are in a debt situation even before winter starts, with the current tariff it’s not going to be any better. So look for a cheaper energy tariff even before you start using more.
When you pay by direct debit
The cheapest energy deals are mostly given to people paying by direct debit. So, if your current tariff allows, the best time is anytime to switch suppliers as new deals come up regularly. Those who keep a check will find they can save hundreds each year.
One month before your current tariff ends
You can change supplier up to 49 days before your contract end date without having to pay a fee, according to Ofgem, the gas and electric markets regulator. This is the best time to switch your energy deal.
You can start looking 7 weeks before the contract ends and switch before you get moved automatically onto a standard more expensive tariff. It takes some time to fully switch over so if you leave it late, you’ll end up paying your current supplier more before leaving.
What you will need to find the best energy deal:
In addition to your name, address and current energy supplier details, the following is what we consider essential to get the best deal possible:
How much do you use in one year in kWh?
Get this information from your latest gas and electricity statements. It is more accurate than the amount you pay monthly or quarterly.
Are you on a tariff that has a time limit?
Apart from the standard tariff, almost all tariffs have an end date. Thankfully, they are usually one or two years long. You can still leave mid contract but you might have to pay an early exit fee. But if the saving you will make by switching supplier is bigger than the exit fee, it makes sense to switch early.
Can you get extra help like the Warm Home Discount?
Not all suppliers give the Warm Home Discount so if you are getting this with your current company; you need to check whether you will actually save by going to the new supplier who may not give it. Look for a cheaper supplier who also gives a warm home discount, most comparison sites will give you this info.
It’s always a good idea to keep a track of what’s happening in the energy market, even if you’re in the middle of the contract, because a big chunk of your bills goes here. If you want to know if a cheaper tariff exists, you can use a comparison site to look at all the suppliers.
Depending on your situation there are certain times that are better when looking for a cheaper tariff. You should look to switch suppliers if you:
- Have always been with the same supplier.
- Pay for your gas and electricity by direct debit?
- When your current supplier increases prices but others haven’t yet.
- Are a few weeks away from your tariff coming to an end.
- When you move home.
- Don’t think you will be able to keep up with winter payments.
- Are in debt before the winter usage begins.