The billing systems for fuel are impossible to understand. Basically, you either pre-pay for these by loading money onto a card which then goes into a slot in the meter, or you pay monthly. The prepaid method costs more, which seems insane because most people who prepay for these services are watching their pennies and are on this method either to avoid getting into debt, or because they have previously got themselves into debt with their fuel provider/s.
The government has stepped in recently to force utility companies to be more transparent with their price plans, but after visiting a few sites to compare the options available in your area, I am certain that you will feel more confused than ever.
Standing Charges - Most plans include these. This charge is levied for a number of days in the month or year, even on days when you do not use any power at all.
Unit Charges - These are easier to understand, and it is what it is - A charge for each unit of power you consume. The annoying thing here is that the unit charge can vary. There is a higher charge for the initial number of units, which drops after you exceed a certain quantity of units in the usage period. Got it? If you have, then you are brighter than me by far.....
Discounts - Some plans offer a discount for paying by Direct Debit, or sometimes for using one company to provide both/dual services. These are often quoted as annual (savings) amounts, but might be credited to your bill monthly in smaller amounts.
Bills - To make things more interesting, bills are often estimated because meters are not read very often. I got myself into a jam after we arrived in England because I assumed that the amount requested on the bills I received from my energy provider was the amount that I needed to pay. This proved not to be the case at all. There was no history available on my family's usage in our first apartment, so the estimates that were used to bill me were based on nothing. After my meters were eventually read, the shock bills arrived. I called to query, and the advisor I spoke to told me that if I wanted bills that were more in line with my actual fuel consumption then it was up to me to telephone them with my meter readings. I still do not have any explanation as to why they employ staff to read meters when these readings are done at random times, often more than a whole year apart.
End of rant.
Avoid getting into debt with your utility bills1. Don't pay more than you must. Using comparison websites is a good idea because they do give an idea of what is available, and they do the calculations for you.
*Note that some of these sites do get a referring fee from some providers. This will be stated on the site, so just keep an eye open for this information. It doesn't automatically follow that site will favour the companies that pay them, but they could. Get the best deal. For reference, you might consider -
moneysavingexpert.com , gocompare.com , comparethemarket.com for starters. There are others.
2. Be frugal. You pay for what you use. There is some information on this site to help you decide what heating is best for you, there are other resources out there too. The suppliers have sections on their websites that are a mine of information that is worth reading through. It is vital to know whiat it costs to run your heating, lighting and appliances.
3. Avoid shock bills. Supply meter readings regularly. You can telephone the company, but often it's cheaper and quicker to provide these readings directly online, through the website.