Ever increasing energy bills seem to make headlines on an almost daily basis and with winter already here, most of the 'Big Six' firms have announced price hikes that will leave many a cash-strapped Brit struggling.
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Ofgem recently announced proposals to simplify fuel tariffs, limiting the number available and preventing price increases on fixed-term tariffs, in a bid to give consumers a fair chance at finding the best deal.
But the planned reforms are still a lengthy consultation process away and, as Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice told Thisismoney.co.uk, householders are still "losing money on their energy bills every day".
There is currently a £300 annual difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs available in the UK, so switching now could still save you a bundle this winter. Better still, if you can get a fixed tariff, you won't face further price hikes in the near future.
There are a number of fixed-rate tariffs on the market now, some guaranteeing no hikes until 2014, giving you two whole winters with peace of mind. However, bear in mind that many firms will charge an exit fee if you decide to switch before the fixed-rate tariff period is up.
However, if you are not keen on fixing or unable to take advantage (for example, if you are on a pre-pay meter), then it may be worth waiting until all the suppliers have revealed their inevitable price increases. That way, you will be able to conduct a full comparison to find the best deal.
How to switch?
Price comparison sites have been a boon for Brits up and down the country, saving them money on everything from pet insurance to mortgages. And sites like gocompare.com or uSwitch are adept at finding the best energy suppliers based on your usage. To get the most effective results, dig out any recent bills for both gas and electricity so that you are armed with the figures.
For an added bonus, many comparison sites, including uSwitch, MoneySupermarket and SimplySwitch, offer incentives like cashback if they you switch via their websites rather than direct with the supplier, so do check to see what's on offer.
Money saving switch tips
Whatever comparison site you use, there are some energy switching tips that could save you even more money. Don't assume, for instance, that dual fuel is the cheapest. Though many of the major suppliers will offer a discount if you take both gas and electricity from them, you may find that you can get a better deal with separate suppliers, so check both options before you switch.
Other simple ways to save money are choosing to pay by monthly direct debit and changing to an internet tariff - according to Moneysavingexpert, the former could save you between five and ten per cent each year, while opting for an internet tariff will typically mean you are paying ten per cent less than the standard tariff.
Having successfully switched, don't get complacent and make do with estimated bills. If they under-estimate your usage you may suddenly be faced with a huge bill at the end of the year - if they overestimate, they're earning interest on your cash. So take the time to read your meters and tap them in on your online account if you have one.
Of course, another way to cut those bills this winter is to cut your usage. If you are not living with a vulnerable person, consider turning down the heat, switching off those standby electricals and investing in energy saving bulbs. The Energy Saving Trust provides plenty of ideas as to how to save energy in the home, even during the winter, which could help you cut your usage further.
Have you recently switched energy supplier? How much have you saved on your annual bill? Leave your comments below...