30 Oct 2015

Save money on your energy bills

Save money on your energy bills

Throughout Energy Week 2015 we have identified ways to reduce energy use, but one key piece of the money saving puzzle is to make sure we are not paying too much for our energy.

Switching your Electricity Supplier!

Within the last month two new electricity suppliers have started operating in Northern Ireland and another existing supplier has entered the market in a larger scale.  As a result there are now six electricity suppliers to choose from and it’s worth comparing the options to make sure you’re on the best rate.

If you’ve changed supplier in the last year or two then it would be best to check your existing contract terms in case you are tied in for a period of time, but normally if that’s not the case and you don’t have outstanding debt then switching is easy.  A quick way to identify savings would be to use one of the comparison websites available, like www.enirgy.info or www.powertoswitch.co.uk.  You should then always check any prices quoted directly with suppliers, just in case there have been any recent changes.  To change you normally need to give your details and a meter reading from your home and your new supplier will look after the rest.

You could also consider changing the way in which you pay for your electricity by changing to either a keypad meter (where you top up electricity using a card) or a Credit meter (where you receive bills).  If you’re choosing to receive bills you can sometimes receive cheaper rates by choosing to pay via direct debit and have paperless billing.

Our new Energy Officer recently reviewed his electricity supply using this simple process and found a possible annual saving of around £50 per year by switching supplier and even by changing the way he pays his bills with his current supplier he could save around £8 per year.

Switching your Natural Gas Supplier!

At present in Greater Belfast, domestic natural gas is available from two suppliers, and in the “Ten Towns” area of Northern Ireland only one supplier is available, although this market is also set to open to increased competition.

Like your electricity supply you can often choose how you want to pay for your natural gas, either by a regular bill or by using a top up card.

What about Heating Oil?

Oil prices have reduced significantly lately and are lower than they have been for at least five years.  But there are ways to still save money!  Around 68% of homes in Northern Ireland use heating oil and many people are familiar with phoning a few suppliers to get the best possible price.  As well as making those regular phone calls there are a few ways to compare prices online.  The Consumer Council contacts heating oil suppliers across different areas of Northern Ireland each week and publishes information on their website.  You could also try using a site like www.boilerjuice.com which compares suppliers and also sometimes groups supply in your area to bring further savings.

The most expensive way to buy heating oil is in drums or from the pump and so these methods should only be used in the event of an emergency.  Unlike electricity and natural gas, it can be more difficult to budget for heating oil, especially if you are trying to get a delivery of over 200litres.  One option to help with this is to consider joining an oil buying club if there is one in your area, and if not you could consider setting up an oil buying club?

Choice have recently worked alongside Bryson Energy who, with support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, have encouraged the formation of oil buying clubs across Northern Ireland.  We have specifically identified over 350 of our homes which are in areas with oil buying clubs operating and letters have been sent to relevant tenants to encourage them to consider this option!  More information on this is available on our website!

Choice buy energy on behalf of some of our tenants.

Choice currently purchase electricity, natural gas and heating oil for a number of our housing schemes for landlord and communal areas and these charges are typically passed on to tenants at these schemes through their service charges.

It is vital therefore that we follow our own advice to tenants and look at our suppliers and tariffs.  For heating oil we have grouped our supply within a UK framework to ensure we receive competitive heating oil prices each week.  Our electricity and natural gas is often procured each year and through this process we have demonstrated considerable savings which we’re able to pass on to our customers.  We entered into new natural gas contracts earlier in the year and anticipate an annual saving of over £50,000 as a result.

All of our electricity supply was recently procured and our new contracts will be commencing shortly.  We are pleased to announce today that our new electricity contracts are expected to collectively save our tenants in the region of £150,000 per year.  In the past few years we have also reviewed electricity tariffs to make sure schemes are on the most appropriate rates.  More information on this is available on our website.

One further innovative measure we have undertaken was to examine the electricity supply to the new homes we are building.  With an ambitious development plan of around 500 homes each year over the next five years, we have recognised the importance of making sure our new tenants get a good deal on their electricity.  We have therefore procured a “preferred supplier” for our new homes with the result of savings in the region of 10% for our new tenants against the regulated price of electricity in Northern Ireland.  Tenants are of course free to switch their supplier when they move into their new homes but with switching levels typically low in Northern Ireland this at least ensures a competitive rate is applied from the outset.  More information on this innovative initiative is also available on our website.

If you’ve found this information to be helpful or if you do decide to switch your energy suppliers please let us know at energy@choice-housing.org and we can maybe share your story to encourage others to save!