How do energy price comparison sites work?
1. Energy price data sheets and data updates
Each of the accredited energy price comparison services receive regular updates directly from the actual energy suppliers. These updates are in the form of data spreadsheets and include every piece of factual information about each tariff, in each region, and for each payment and meter type. The data sheets also include discounts, terms and conditions, special features and every other piece of information available regarding each tariff. These data sheets are massive, but they are maintained and transmitted electronically so the energy price comparison sites can download a complete sheet each.
The data sheets are loaded in to each price comparison service database. This already contains previous data sheets from the same supplier, and for every other supplier in the UK. Databases contain thousands of records with all the tariff details available in each region.
Behind each database, there is a calculator which extracts the required details based on what you put in on the visible input screen which you see on the websites.
2. Customer data input.
The following information is input by visiting customer to the website:
- Postcode – This tells the database which region you are in. You can provide your full address or just skip to use your postcode to start with. Quick link to start:
- Your Supply Service required? – Either gas or electricity or both.
- Then, for each service it asks the following:
- Existing supplier? – The calculator needs this information in order to give you comparisons to all the other suppliers.
- Current tariff or Plan name? – Same again, this is needed to know what you are paying now, so it can compare and give you a list of alternatives, and show you the differences + or – between tariffs.
- How do you pay your bills? – Tariffs vary between payment types. Usually the costs for monthly direct debit payments are less expensive than quarterly payments. But the calculator shows you both prices so you can see the differences.
- Do you have Economy 7? – This only applies to electricity supplier as some people have meters which have two readings, one for daytime units used, and one for night time units.
- What % night use? – Again, only for economy. Click here for a special page about how to work out economy 7 information.
- How much gas / electricity do you use? – This section is for energy consumed in kWh’s, or £pounds, or by using averages.
- Based on kWh’s used? – The best way is to work out how many kWh’s you use in a one year period. This way the calculator has an accurate idea of your consumption and this affects the total costs shown on the results page.
- Based on cost? – Instead of kWh’s used, you can tell the calculator how much you have paid over a year. It will then work out how many kWh’s you’ve used based on the supplier and tariff details you already entered. So it gets back to an accurate figure for your consumption. There may be some variances, if, for example, your tariff changed in the year, but the calculated estimatre is good enough to enable good price comparisons.
- Based on averages? – You also have the option to use low, medium, or high usage, depending on the size of your house. The consumptiopns used are dictated by Ofgem who issue the averages to use and all price comparison sites use the same. Averages are ok but can vary a lot depending on how much time people spend at home, how many people live in the house, etc.
- And finally..
- How do you want to pay your bills in future? – Asked so you decide which prices you want to see, but you can select “Show all” as well.
- Which tariffs do you want to see? – This little question means you can see every single tariff in the market, or only the tariffs that each price comparison service can switch you to. Sometimes this question is presented in a confusing way, but try always select the answer so you see all tariffs available including all suppliers.
- Completed to here!!
- Next step – Click View Results!
3. Energy Price Comparison Results Page
How do energy price comparison sites work?
You’ve done all the hard work, and now you get the benefit of the results pages!
These pages are actually really good and well worth while checking out if you can!
- They contain an analysis of all suppliers prices and they are usually listed in the order of best prices at the top of the page.
- Each tariff is listed separately showing supplier name, tariff name, annual cost, and calculated difference between what you pay with your existing supplier.
- You can click on the tariff details link and get a fantastic breakdown of the tariff. For anyone who wants to see details, it’s just fantastic! But you don’t need to click the details link if you are happy just to see the least expensive tariffs.
- You can also apply filters like Fixed/Capped tariffs only, or Green & Environmental tariffs only. Or Gas only, Electricity only, or both services.
- You can also email the results page to your selef so you can spend some time going over the information.
- You can review this page and, when you are ready, you can decide which supplier you want to switch to and select the Continue button.
4. New Energy Supplier Application pages
So, you’ve compared suppliers energy prices and seen how much you can save, and now you’ve selected a new supplier. Here’s what happens next.
- After you select “Continue” on the results page, you are shown a screen of information about the new supplier and tariff. You can check this and go back and make changes if you like.
- Once you are happy with the details, select “Apply for this tariff”.
- You are then taken to the next page on a secure part of the server and you will see a padlock and https in the website address bar.
- The next page is the Suppliers Application page. Here you are asked for your meter supply information including such things as address, your contact details, some security information, and depending on the supplier, some information about smart meters, and more.
- One very important feature is that you do not have to fill in details of your energy consumption, as you’ve already done this for the calculator and the information is passed in to the application background fields. This is a very clever feature of energy price comparison sites.
- You are asked for payment details to set up the direct debit, if that’s the option you chose. All this is on the secure servers.
- You will also see a link to the suppliers terms and conditions for review. You need to check these then tick that you agree these.
- Lastly, you are asked if you would like to be kept updated with news and information, and this is quite useful to receive now and again.
- After everything is complete, click Continue and then the application can be finished on the last page.
5. What happens after completing the application?
- Your application will be processed electronically and will be sent securely to the new supplier within one working day.
- The new supplier will receive and process application, and you have a 14 day period in which you can change your mind if you want to. If you change your mind for any reason during this time you can cancel your switch with no questions asked.
- You’ll receive a welcome pack from the new supplier and will be asked to provide meter readings to help set-up your account.
- Each stage of your switch will be handled by your new supplier so there is no need to contact your current supplier(s).
- And that’s it! Your switch will be completed in 4-6 weeks during which time you will receive information from the supplier depending on which supplier you have chosen.
- Job done!
6. Future energy bills!
- Once the switch over is complete, you will be on the new tariff prices, and you will then be paying for your gas and electricity at the lower prices.
- You can check the first bill you receive from the new supplier to make sure the prices are the same as what you saw on the calculator.
7. Final note
- You should always keep an eye on suppliers prices and after about a year, come back to Switchwise.co.uk and check you are still on good rates.
- By just keeping an eye on the things that use electricity a lot, you can save good money by switching things off when not in use.