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The Complete Student Switching Guide 2018

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We understand, it’s the last thing that you want to think about when moving into your student house, but the fact is, switching your gas and electricity tariff can massively save you money over the year, leaving you with more of your student loan to spend on the things that matter! It is estimated that the costs of being a student can be in excess of £1,340 per month, £85 of which is spent on energy bills. Not only is this way too much, but you have the choice to drastically reduce this amount.

Your right to switch as a student

Department of Energy & Climate Change
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Many students may think that they are locked in to whatever their landlord has signed them up to, but most students do in fact have the right to switch, subject to a few small conditions. If you are responsible for paying your gas and/or electricity bills, then you can lawfully switch your tariff with no repercussions from your landlord, nor the energy company you’re with now.

If you are not responsible for your gas and electricity bills, and your landlord bills you each month, instead of your energy provider, then you would have to suggest a switch to your landlord. This could make things a bit trickier, as it would need to be carried out by your landlord, but he/she should not have a problem with doing so if they care about their tenants at all!

Alternatively, you could request that your landlord switches the name on the account to yours, meaning you would be in charge of paying the bills. This actually makes more sense for the landlord as any debts accumulated would thereafter be charged to the tenant, instead of the them.

So, to sum up:

  • If the energy supplier bills you, then you are eligible to switch right away
  • If the energy supplier bills your landlord, and they bill you, then your landlord must either transfer the name of the account to you or make the switch themselves.

What to do if you landlord contests?

If your landlord is not happy with you switching, this may cause some issues for you, not so much in terms of the switch actually taking place, but by them holding you to exit fee clauses and other possible charges incurred by not doing enough research into your new plan. This is extremely simple to avoid - you should ensure that you are either on a variable tariff, which has no contract length, or that the tariff that you are on has no, or very low, exit fees.

You should also watch out for the current tariff that you are on pre-switch. If this tariff also has some get out clauses, then you should be careful that the fees are low enough to warrant the switch still being beneficial long-term. Remember, you are going to be in this house for (usually) a minimum of one year, which means 12 months of extortionate energy bills if you don’t switch, so switching out of your tariff will generally still be financially beneficial, regardless. Plus, it is also worth noting that even if nobody is in the house and you aren’t using energy, you will still have to pay bills due to the daily standing charge applied to the majority of energy tariffs.

Did you know?If you are responsible for paying your energy bills, you don’t even need to inform your landlord that you are switching your supplier.

What do you need to switch?

Ok, so assuming that you’ve got the situation with your landlord sorted, let’s look into the physical act of switching. As a student, you surely have more pressing matters at hand than learning about unit rates, standing charges etc., so ideally you want to just know how much you spend now, and how much you would be spending should you switch. The easiest way of doing this is using a comparison engine, which will give you all the best available tariffs in your area, based on price and customer service etc. You will need a few snippets of info; however, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through each one by clicking on each section:

Supply address

Self-explanatory, this will be the address that you want to switch your energy tariff for. Comparison tools will generally ask you for your postcode first and then for the number at which you live. Supply location is extremely important for making your quotation, as this will inform the supplier as to which of the 13 regional pricing zones you are in. Depending on where your university is, you may get slightly cheaper or more expensive rates than someone you know elsewhere in the country.

Meter type

Don’t panic about finding out what meter type you have, it’s simple, and the chances are you have a standard direct debit meter. But, there is a small chance that you have either a prepayment or economy 7.

The best way to identify your meter type would be to have a look on your last bill and look for the following words ‘direct debit’, ‘economy 7’ or ‘smart’. This could mean that you’re either on a standard direct debit meter, an economy 7 meter or a smart meter. If you pay for your energy in advance then you certainly have a prepayment meter. If you don’t have a bill handy, you can try and find your meters in the property and look for the same clues.

Payment method

Self explanatory, this is the way in which you pay for your energy bills. If your landlord is in control of the bills, then it is likely that they will pay direct debit and then bill you after, but if you are in charge, then there’s a number of ways you could pay. The options that you have are:

  • Monthly direct debit
  • Quarterly direct debit
  • Payment on receipt
  • Cheque
  • Prepayment

If you aren’t sure how you pay now, then the best method of finding out would again be to look on your last bill. Also, if you want to change your payment type on your new tariff, then this should not be a problem at all, the only thing that would prevent you would be that payment type not being available on your new tariff.

Average usage information

In order to get a quote and for the energy supplier to know how much you are likely to spend, you should provide your usage information. You can find this out by making an estimate through a comparison engine or through your past bills. Bear in mind that students generally use a lot more electricity, but much less gas than the average household.

Below you can see how much we would estimate students will use based on the amount of people living in the house:

Average household usage by amount of students
Amount of people Electricity usage (per year) Gas usage (per year)
1 person 1,900 kWh 6,000 kWh
2 people 2,500 kWh 6,500 kWh
3 people 3,100 kWh 7,000 kWh
4 people 3,700 kWh 8,150 kWh
5 people 4,300 kWh 9,300 kWh
6 people 5,000 kWh 10,500 kWh
7 people 5,600 kWh 11,800 kWh
8 people 6,000 kWh 12,900 kWh

Current provider and tariff

All the information about your current tariff and provider can be found on your bill. However, if you have not yet received any bills or everything has been set up online and you’re not sure who it is, then you can find out by calling two numbers. It is likely that your gas and electricity will be supplied by the same provider, but there is a small chance that your landlord originally had two different supplies. You can call the Meter Number Helpline for gas and your electricity distribution company for electric. You can find the details below.

How to choose the right tariff?

There are a number of factors that make a ‘good energy supplier’, and therefore, a ‘good energy tariff’, of course, none more so than the price. But, before you switch to the very cheapest tariff of the month without considering any of the details, you may want to think about some of the contract terms.

If your landlord is opposed to the idea of you switching your energy tariff, then making sure you are on a flexible tariff or one with low exit fees is crucial, otherwise your landlord is going to make you pay the exit fees when you leave your house, and therefore contract if there is still time remaining. The cheapest tariffs are generally 12 month fixed tariffs, but if you can persuade your landlord that it would benefit the next tenant, or that you will pay the exit fees when you leave, then you should still switch, without doubt.

Here is a list of variables that you may want to consider:

  • The length of the contract
  • The amount of renewable energy in your supply
  • The payment method
  • The exit fees for leaving your contract early
  • Customer service rating

It is worth noting that when you make and energy comparison, the likeliness is that the cheapest tariff will be with a company that you’ve never heard of. But, don’t worry, all energy suppliers that are offered through reputable comparison engines are regulated by OFGEM, which means there is 0% risk associated with switching your supply.

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Submitting meter readings

Submitting meter readings is something that most people, not just students, don’t really want to do, but mainly because they believe it’s a ‘big hassle’. In reality, however, giving a meter is extremely quick and simple and is the quickest way to make sure you don’t receive any estimated bills. Basically, all you need to do is write down the numbers on your meter every month, which can be done over the phone, online, or via your supplier’s mobile app.

If you would like to find out more in-depth information as to how you can submit your meter reading, please click the below button:

Splitting the bills

Many students find it beneficial to either pay on receipt or have an automatic direct debit that comes out of one person’s bank account, but the way that the splitting is dealt with can usually cause tensions. Having to chase housemates up about payments is not ideal in anyone’s books, so using technology to put a system in place is usually the best option. This doesn’t just apply to your gas and electricity bills, but for your other utilities like water and internet, too.

Using mobile apps can allow you to set a monthly outgoing, that will be paid by your other housemates, contributing to the pot of the house. This will then be used to pay the bills you have. Some of the best apps in this category are:

  • Splitwise
  • Monefy
  • Billr
  • Divvy
  • Venmo

Reducing your consumption

Students tend to be one of the highest electricity user demographics in the country. Which, given their general reluctance to turn on the central heating to save money, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. So, if you really want to save money, you should start thinking about how much electricity you are using, especially when nobody is in the house.

Below you can see some of our best tips for reducing your electricity consumption:

  1. Always turn lights off when nobody is in the room
  2. If you have appliances plugged in that are never in use, unplug them. They still use a small amount of electricity even when not turned on
  3. Don’t use your dishwasher or washing machine until you have a full load
  4. If you want to save lots of money, switch your light bulbs to LEDs, although you should probably ask your landlord about this first
  5. Never use a dryer - Always air dry your clothes, even in winter

These are just some of the many things that you can do to reduce your energy consumption, but the number one way to save on your bills is 100% to switch tariff.