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Keeping warm at home

How do I better understand my heating bills and how much I am spending?

Smart meters

Smart meters are the new gas and electricity meters. They are installed with no up front cost along with an in-home display (if required) by energy companies. You do not need to have an internet connection at home as the smart meter works via radio waves. It transmits data about your energy use to your energy company. You are in control of the data and how your energy company uses it. The smart meter does not hold personal data or payment data.

Benefits of smart meters:

  • your energy bill will always be accurate and not based on estimated usage
  • if you have an in-home display, you can see exactly how much gas, electricity or both you are using so you can budget on a daily basis
  • if you are on a prepayment plan the in-home display will show how much credit you have left plus your emergency credit

Energy bill reading advice

Understanding your fuel bills is important to help you switch supplier and to be able to manage your bills effectively:

  • check for the name of the tariff you are on as this affects the price you pay
  • look at the total number of units you have used , check to see if your previous bills have been calculated with estimated use and are you due any refunds?
  • look at the cost per unit of energy; this is important if you are looking to switch as some companies charge different amounts for energy use
  • check how you pay your bill as it can be cheaper to pay by direct debit or online


There are a number of different tariff options that suppliers can offer. The main types include:

  • Standard - variable single unit rate with a standing charge
    Open-ended tariffs where the price can go up as well as down; they can be more expensive than fixed rate tariffs but there are no exit or cancellation fees
  • Time of use - e.g. Economy 7
    Customers receive 7 hours of electricity at an off peak, lower rate, usually between the hours of 10pm and 8:30am; this may be better for households using electric storage heaters or heating water using an immersion heater but it can be expensive if customers are not using most of their electric during off peak hours
  • Prepayment
    Prepayment cards are used with prepayment meters; there can be less choice of tariff with prepayment and it is usually more expensive than paying by direct debit but can make it is easier to budget as energy is paid for up front
  • Fixed term - e.g. a year
    Fixed term tariffs usually last for one year with the price remaining the same for the whole period - this usually means there are exit fees if a customer wishes to leave earlier; some fixed term tariffs can be more expensive than standard variable tariffs if energy costs go down during the fixed term period
  • Green supply
    This tariff means that some or all of the energy you buy is matched with purchases of renewable energy (solar/wind) that your supplier makes on your behalf; these tariffs help the environment but can be more expensive than fixed tariffs
Last modified on 11 January 2023

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