Energy bills can run up to five pages and three is standard. You might be tempted to simply bin bills of that length or surrender in defeat after half a page. Who can decipher a bill that long? Why does it include so much information and what’s actually relevant?
Although they may be daunting, you’ll want to read your energy bill. You’ll want to understand how much gas and electricity you’re using, and outside of smart meters, your bill is the best indication of this. You’ll want to keep track of this figure to ensure you’re not frittering away pounds on your heating and racking up a huge carbon footprint.
You’ll also want to check that you’re being billed accurately and that your supplier hasn’t made any errors. You’ll want to see if your tariff has changed, when any fixed rate deal expires, and if your supplier has raised prices. You’ll want to know if you owe your supplier money, or if you’re in credit and could see lower energy bills in the future, or possibly qualify for a refund. Thanks to the tariff comparison rate any energy bill must now include, your bill is also the best way to see if you could save money by switching to another tariff or supplier. It also provides all the information you’ll need to compare energy deals, including your annual consumption.
If you’re a customer of one of the Big Six (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE)—and three quarters of us are— you can find guides to your own specific supplier’s bill. But even if you are or you’re signed up with a smaller supplier, the following general guidelines will help you navigate those Russian novels of utility bills you receive every month.
Here are the sums and details to look out for when reading your energy bill:
- meter readings: Your latest gas and electricity meter readings will be printed on your bill. The bill will indicate whether they’re actual readings, taken either by you or an engineer, or whether they’re estimated readings based on your previous typical use. If they’re estimated readings you should supply an up to date meter readings to your supplier as soon as possible to ensure you’re being billed accurately.
- energy use: Your meter readings will be used to calculate your energy use, in kilowatt hours (kWH) for the time period of the bill, typically a month. If you have a dual fuel tariff, the amount should be broken down into units of gas and electricity.
- amount owed and due date: The figure you’ll most want to look out for is the sum owed. The supplier will make it hard to miss. The amount you owe will be calculated from your energy use for the time period, multiplied by the per unit rate your pay for gas and electricity. The sum will also account for the standing charge you pay to the supplier for the maintenance of your connection and servicing of your account; any discounts you may have earned, such as by paying via direct debit or getting gas and electricity from the same supplier; and the 5% VAT levied on domestic energy. You might find you don’t owe your supplier anything but are instead in credit. This may be the case if your energy use has fallen below normal, such as during the summer when you’re not running your heating, or if your actual meter readings were below the estimated ones. Typically customers keep this balance on their account to cover future higher energy bills but in some cases you might be able to get a refund.
- your tariff: You’ll want to know the name and details of your tariff when comparing quotes. Additionally, you’ll want to know if you’re nearing the end of fixed rate contract and will soon be reverted to a more expensive standard variable rate tariff.
- tariff comparison rate (TCR): The tariff comparison rate shows you exactly how much you pay per kWh of electricity and gas once all charges, taxes, and discounts are accounted for. This figure will allow you to easily compare energy tariffs and indeed, your bill will include information about the supplier’s other tariffs and how much money you could save by switching to one.
- personal projection: This figure will be the amount you’re projected to spend on energy over the next 12 months if you stick with your current tariff. It will be based on your previous typical use.
- account number: You’ll need this number when communicating with your supplier, such as if you need to resolve billing errors.