Both residential and business energy users in the UK currently have many different tariff choices for both their gas and electricity. Some of these tariffs are more advantageous than others from a financial standpoint. Among all of them, however, the dual fuel tariff might be the best for a couple of reasons.
A dual fuel tariff is a way to save money, consolidate bills, and better manage fuel consumption and the financial resources used to pay for it. It is a great option on the part of power companies as well because it allows them to manage their customer base more efficiently.
Dual Fuel Tariff Explained
The concept of the dual fuel tariff is rather simple. Where some people purchase gas and electricity on separate contracts from different suppliers, dual fuel combines both services on a single contract with a single provider. Just about anyone who lives in a residential area with gas lines is eligible to go dual fuel.
In rural areas, where LPG is used rather than natural gas, the dual fuel tariff option is dictated by the suppliers servicing that area. Some offer both propane and electricity combined while others require separate contracts. In either case, when you take advantage of a dual fuel tariff there are some definite benefits.
Benefits of Dual Fuel Tariff
The most obvious benefit of selecting a dual fuel tariff is cost savings. Although prices fluctuate and continue to rise, it is not uncommon to save upwards of £90 per year by combining both utility services with the same provider. Add to that the potential savings of shopping around every 16 to 18 months for a better deal, and you could knock quite a bit off your energy bills. Other benefits include:
- Single Bill - When you choose a dual fuel tariff, you are dealing with a single bill every month. Even if you have chosen a quarterly debit payment option, there is still only one bill rather than two. For those of us who hate going through and paying the bills every month, one less bill to worry about is nice.
- Single Payment - Along with a single bill is the single payment for both services. This may not seem like it's that important, but when you maintain a monthly budget, it is easier to keep track of one item that it is two. And with a monthly budget that may contain up to a dozen categories, combining two into one is helpful.
- Single Supplier - In terms of dealing with energy suppliers, life becomes much easier when you only have one to work with. Regardless of whether you have trouble with electric or gas there is just one phone call to a single office; half the work involved in having two separate suppliers and two different contracts.
In fairness, some consumers prefer to keep their gas and electric separate for whatever reason. That's perfectly fine. There are plenty of energy suppliers willing to provide gas or electric on a single contract.
Meters for Dual Fuel Accounts
As far as your gas and electric meters go, not much changes when you choose the dual fuel tariff option. You still have separate meters for both services; those meters will need to be read and the numbers submitted to the energy provider for billing purposes.
One thing you may have already noticed is that energy companies are quickly transitioning to smart meters in order to streamline the meter reading process and make things more efficient. According to AOL Energy, E.ON plans to deploy more than 300,000 of these meters by the end of 2013. And they are not alone. Most UK power companies are going the same route with the expectation that smart meters will be the industry standard by 2019.
Smart meters make life easier in several different ways. First of all, they utilize wireless technology to display energy consumption inside the home rather than forcing the consumer to go outside to read a meter. If that's not enough to convince you that smart meters are the way to go, consider the following:
- Energy Company Direct Access - On the government's GOV.UK website the Department of Energy states smart meters will give power companies direct access to meters through wireless technology. This means consumers will no longer have to manually read meters and submit the numbers. All of that is taken care of automatically.
- No More Estimates - As it currently stands, energy companies estimate usage during months when consumers fail to send in their meter readings. They usually estimate on the high-end to protect themselves from financial loss. With smart meters, there will be no more need for estimates, thus guaranteeing you only pay for what you use.
- Real-Time Data - While older meters give accurate readings, there is still a bit of lag time. Smart meters provide real-time data that allows customers to track energy consumption at any point during the day. That makes it easy to see, for example, how much energy you are consuming when you have the television, two computers, and a game console all working simultaneously.
- Easier Budgeting - Given the fact that electricity is billed at a higher rate during the daylight hours, the real-time data offered by smart meters makes it easier to budget. Just by seeing how much power is being consumed during the day, consumers can be motivated to leave unnecessary energy consumption until the evening.
Dual Fuel and Prepayment Tariffs
Customers currently on prepayment tariffs pay some of the highest rates in the industry because of their circumstances. A prepayment meter is typically installed when a customer is in arrears; this step is taken to prevent the customer's debt from getting too large while also ensuring continual delivery of energy.
When a prepayment customer switches to dual fuel, he or she will likely still get a cheaper rate but they must remain a prepayment customer until certain conditions are met. Consumers who move into a new home with a prepayment meter already in place should contact the energy supplier to find out about having it replaced with a contract meter. As long as the consumer is trying to take advantage of cheaper rates with dual fuel, there is no reason to have a more costly prepayment meter if it is not necessary.
Switching to Dual Fuel
If you are currently purchasing your gas electric on separate contracts, switching to the dual fuel option should not be a problem. To get started your best bet is to shop around and compare prices of other suppliers against your current supplier. You may find that simply switching to a dual fuel tariff with your current energy company is the best deal of all.
If you find a better deal elsewhere, that's fine. Contact both companies and let them know of your intentions to switch; they will do the rest. In some cases, you may need a new meter installed if your new energy supplier does not support the type of meter you currently have.
Your new supplier is also obligated to send you a copy of your energy contract along with other information important to your account. If you do not receive that information in a timely manner, you need to contact your new supplier and request they send it to you.
As far as wrapping things up with your old supplier, how easy that task is depends on your circumstances. As an example, if your payment method was based on a standing order, you can probably switch without anything to worry about. However, if you pay using a monthly debit from your bank account, you will probably have to make one more payment once you switch to your new supplier. Make sure any payment arrangements you made remain in place until your account is completely cleared.
Comparing a Dual Fuel Prices
The fastest and easiest way to compare prices for dual fuel is to use a comparison website. Such websites keep track of energy prices across the industry in order to provide comparisons from companies like EDF, British Gas, Scottish Gas, SSE, and many more.
In most cases, you simply enter a limited amount of information into an online form and then click the appropriate button to submit. Within a minute or so, you'll have pricing information for multiple companies offering energy services in your area. Some of the comparison sites let you move right from there into the switching process. Others require you to contact utility providers directly to initiate the switch.
When you are shopping for prices on a comparison website, keep your eye on special incentives. You may find one site offering points toward popular reward programs like Nectar and Clubcard. Others might be offering discounts, rebates, or merchandise-based incentives.
Switching from two standard contracts to a dual fuel tariff is good for the budget, easier to keep track of, and a better situation for those who prefer to deal with just one company. If you are not currently using a dual fuel tariff, it is something you should look into. Even if you do not decide to make the switch, you'll at least know what's out there for future reference.
Below is a short list of websites you can visit to find out more about dual fuel tariffs, smart meters, and comparing energy prices. When you follow these links, you will find quite a bit of useful information that will go a long way in helping you understand the UK energy market and dual fuel.
Consumer Focus - This site is part of an ongoing effort by the Consumer Focus advocacy organisation to ensure Brits are getting the best deal in energy. The focus of this particular page and the accompanying downloadable document is a topic of switching energy suppliers.
This Is Money - The UK Financial Website of the Year for 2012 offers its take on switching to a dual fuel tariff here. This is definitely worth the read if you want to know more about the subject.
Which? - Here you will find a comprehensive explanation of smart meters and how they work. There are also links to information about dual fuel, the various tariff options available, and so much more.
If you are in the market for a better energy tariff then it's time to begin your search using the comparison websites listed below. In most cases, you'll be able to shop for gas only, electric only, or dual fuel. Some offer even more options.
Go Compare - This is the landing page for this website's dual fuel quote tool. Fill out the simple online form, click the button, and let your quotes come back to you. If you prefer to search just one service, you can follow links to the top of the page.
Money Supermarket - Here you will find a good explanation of dual fuel tariffs and why they are beneficial. When you are ready to compare prices just click the button at the top of the page.
Confused.com - Follow this link to compare dual fuel prices quickly and easily. There are other options as well including gas or electric only, business utilities, and green energy.
Compare the Market - This simple and straightforward site offers price comparisons for dual fuel, gas or electric only, or business energy. They take all of the hype out of cost comparisons to provide what you're looking for most: results.
Tesco Compare - When you compare and switch here you could save as much as £270 on your utility bills. Club card members can earn 250 points as well.
uSwitch.com - This site offers consumers both an online comparison tool and a free telephone number you can call for personal advice. You can also glance at their overview comparison to see current prices among the UK's top suppliers.
Money.co.uk - If you are looking for a site that allows you to search energy prices with multiple options, this one is for you. You can search for single services, dual fuel, business energy, green energy suppliers, online suppliers, and more.
Totally Money - Another site that lets you shop for both dual fuel and single contract. Some of the companies quoted here include EVO, EDF, NPower, Scottish Gas, and E.ON.
Money Saving Expert - If lots of information is what you are after, this site should definitely be on your list to visit. There are a number of useful guides providing page after page of helpful information.