We know that energy bills can be confusing and that this can make it difficult to understand what you are spending on energy.
With the current energy crisis, getting a firm grip on your own usage and understanding your bills is an increasing priority for all. Below we talk you through what your bill includes, taking a meter reading and we provide an explanation of some of the key language associated with energy bills.
What your bills include
Energy bills will vary in appearance from supplier to supplier. You can find guides to bills from the biggest energy companies here – https://www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/guides/energy-bills/
There are some things that will appear on all bills and understanding these will be a good starting point to understanding your own energy usage. Things that your bill will tell you include:
- The Tariff you’re on: This outlines the cost per kilowatt-hour of energy usage and the daily standing charges. The current energy crisis means that there are no cheap deals and that many companies are not taking on new customers meaning you cannot switch providers. There are different types of tariff – some are fixed, some variable and some are specific to the type of heating you have, e.g. Economy 7 tariffs are best for people with storage heaters.
- How much energy (gas and / or electricity) you’ve used since your last bill: This will either be estimated if you have not given meter readings, or actual if you have. And it will be measured in kWh (kilowatt-hours) and in money.
- What your balance is: this is calculated by looking at how much you have paid to date and how much you have used to date (this will be affected by whether or not you have supplied regular meter readings). Your balance will show whether you are in credit (you have funds ‘banked’ with them) or in debit (you owe them money). Depending on the tariff you are on and how you make payments this may affect how much your next payment will be.
- Detailed breakdowns of your usage: Often there will be more detailed breakdowns of your usage, explanations of some of the key terms used and information about how you might be able to save money or get a better deal (at the moment this is unlikely to be the case though).
The meter measures how much gas or electric you are using. Electricity is measured in kWh and gas measured in cubic meters which is then converted to kWh by your energy company.
You will have separate meters for gas and electricity and, depending on the type of dwelling you are in, these may be inside your home or in a communal area. It is advisable to take meter readings once a month or so – it does not matter when in the month you take them, the important thing is taking them regularly so your bills stay accurate.
Many energy companies now have apps through which you can provide meter readings and manage your account. You can also usually provide the readings through their website or by calling them. Many energy companies will email you reminders if you have not recently submitted a meter reading.
If you have a smart meter, you do not need to provide readings as your smart meter does this automatically. A smart meter’s in-home display can also show you your current usage. You can find out more about smart meters here – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/smart-meters-how-they-work
The language associated with energy bills is not always easy to understand. Below are some key terms and what they mean.
Standard variable tariff
This is the tariff many people now find themselves on. The cost of the tariff varies – the energy company can put the prices up or down BUT it is capped by Ofgem which means there is an upper limit on how much can be charged per kilowatt-hour and for standing charges. It does not mean that your bills have an upper limit, only the price per kilowatt-hour – how much you pay will still be based on how much you use.
Fixed price tariff
these tariffs have a fixed price per kilowatt-hour and for standing charges. They usually last for 12 to 24 months.
In addition to paying for the kilowatt-hours of energy you use, companies will charge you an amount per day, this is whether or not you are using any energy. Charges vary but, are typically between 20p and 60p per day per fuel
Kilowatt hours (kWh)
this is a measure of how much energy you have used; 1 kWh is the amount of energy you would use if you kept a 1000 watt appliance running for 1 hour. To put this in more useful terms:
o A 100 watt light bulb would take 10 ten hours to use 1 kWh
o A cooker (2000 watts, typically) would take 30 minutes to use 1 kWh
o An electric shower (around 10,000 watts) would take 6 minutes
o A fridge freezer (200 – 400 watts) would take about 3 hours
o A 42” LED TV (80 watts) would take 12 and a half hours
This is a unique number that identifies the electricity meter for your home. It stands for Meter Point Administration Number and is 21 digits long. On your bill it is usually labeled as ‘supply number’ and the digits are often grouped into blocks.
This is the equivalent of the MPAN but for gas meters. It stands for Meter Point Reference Number and is typically 6 to 11 digits long. Both the MPAN and MPRN are included on all electricity and gas bills and you will need them if you want to switch supplier
We know that many people are already using as little energy as they can; understanding bills is just a small part of lowering usage and reducing costs – costs, that for many, are already as low as they can be, yet are still far too high.
Get in touch
If you live in a home that you’re struggling to keep warm, we may be able to help you – please get in touch for more information.