When it comes to gas & electricity, most people follow the same approach. Receive the bill, look up the amount and pay it – no questions asked. 10 years can pass without a single change in the process.
That’s how I used to be too. But here’s the question.
Why do some households pay £40 and others £60 for the same flat and energy consumption? How can prices be so different if all companies offer the same resource?
There is no such thing as “premium gas that heats your house faster” or “better electricity that charges your battery quicker”. So it must be down to the quality of service – time to setup, customer service, how quickly they fix my problems, and of course, marketing!
This really struck me after moving to a new flat. The landlady suggested we carry on with her EDF dual bill plan. While I agree it’s better to have both gas & electricity supplied by the same provider (that’s what “dual bill” means), I had to challenge the EDF part of the sentence.
EDF is a large energy supplier here in the UK, one of the “Big 6”. I never had a contract with them and therefore don’t know their quality of service. It turns out that the process of switching to them from my previous provider (E.on) would be the same hassle as signing up with a totally new provider. So I decided to research the market and find the best provider possible. This article explains how I did it.
The purpose? Getting the best value for money. A budget deal (saved £707) with the best quality of service. Here’s the process I followed which applies regardless of whether you’re in the UK or not.
Find a comparison website (i.e. uSwitch)
Head over to uSwitch and search for Gas & Electricity deals.
If you know how much energy you spend, then uSwitch can provide a more accurate comparison.
It turns out all companies have a standing charge regardless of whether you use the service or not, plus a unit rate that charges us according to the amount of usage. These 2 vary from company to company but uSwitch made it easy for me.
They did the math and showed me a list of options. At this point, I wondered. Why the hell there are 100 different companies providing electricity? Wow.. That’s capitalism at its best…! Anyway, more competition means better prices. So here are the first results from price low to high:
Scanning the results from top to bottom I thought I found some great options. But the price is not the only thing that matters.
- How quickly will I be able to switch?
- Is the customer service any good? What is the customer experience like?
- What if I want to leave early?
All these questions can be answered with one simple click: TRUSTPILOT.
What is Trustpilot? An independent reviews website that people vote about their experiences with different companies. You would expect that only negative or fake positive comments make it there but surprisingly it works. They do ‘verified order’ reviews just like Amazon does when you order a product. This ensures the reviews are honest and real. In fact, good companies encourage their users to leave a review on Trustpilot, because they are confident they offer a good service.
In some countries, Trustpilot is not available, but I find that Facebook groups are a good alternative. See this for example. The second result on the list:
It’s not so easy to score a good rating on TrustPilot. Therefore, a company with a rating above 8.0 is a great way to start.
Second step: Filtering
The process is very straightforward. Starting from top to bottom I search every company on Trustpilot and look for 2 things:
a) Rating above 8.0
b) Enough reviews (more than 100?)
And that’s what I did. Looking at the first company, “Economy energy” this is what I get:
Gas & Electricity companies usually have an ‘energy’ ending on their name. For example, tonikenergy.co.uk.
One out of three reviews is a 1 star.
I certainly don’t want to end up like Janette, the very first comment.
Repeating the process for all companies on the list, I get the following results:
Pretty bad scores so far or not enough reviews, but here’s one that may work!
Tonik energy apparently offer not only an affordable price but also a great service. 9.2 is a pretty high rating for a Gas & Electricity company. On the plus side, Tonik energy provide a 100% renewable energy package.. So not only you pay less, but also feel happy not wasting the planet’s resources.
However, there are not so many reviews and the company’s first review ever was on 16th Dec 2016, so fairly new. Promising, but let’s continue.
Scrolling down the page, it only took me a few more minutes to research 5 more companies.
The same story follows, and I think I found a winner. Octopus energy look like a great company. An astonishing 9.7 rating and 520 reviews, I mean holy shit! It takes a lot of effort to keep 520 people close to “I would not change a thing about this company”.
No exit fees, no lock-in contracts, London-based company with a vision.
I visited their website and was very impressed with the company manifesto. Going to their “about us” page I found out about their solar panel investment. Apparently, they are the largest investor in solar farms in the UK.
They encourage you to take energy that leaves no carbon footprint on the planet. You can select a 50% renewable plan or go full green which is slightly more expensive (£3 per month more for my plan) but makes you feel better ?
How awesome is that – and that they manage to remain competitive and offer cheaper prices than the Big 6. This tells me they run their company very efficiently and / or the big companies make huge profits out of us.
Both Tonik and Octopus leverage smart technology to offer a great service. Between those 2, I thought I’m happy to pay a slightly more expensive price (£3.75 per month) to get a more validated choice.
Sign up with the chosen one
Unfortunately, Octopus were not available through uSwitch’s autoswitch plan, where they handle everything for you. A bit of manual work was needed to visit their website, provide my details and verify I want to switch.
As expected, the boarding process was very straightforward. I just needed to fill in a few fields like name & address. What is also great is that they would handle talking to my old supplier and make sure the transfer goes smoothly.
Browsing around their website I found that Octopus work well with smart thermostats that connect with your Gas or oil boiler and control your temperature to save money – like turning the heating off when you’re away and control your home from an app.
Just like playing “The Sims” (oh, so many good memories!). I haven’t bought a smart thermostat yet as it costs £250 but I may consider it for the future.
So I signed up, and two weeks later I got this e-mail that the switch is complete!
Fun fact: When I checked out my account, I got this little octopus suggesting I should take the cable off my fully-charged laptop and that I’m burning energy for no reason 🙂
That was a good one!
So yeah, a little bit of research pays off
I could go on and on about how good my experience was but partly, that was because other users recommended it to me. Sure I did my research but had it not been for uSwitch and Trustpilot I would’ve never heard of them.
I find that the same system applies to all other decisions in my life. From internet broadband to which coffee machine to buy, a little preparation goes a long way.
“Oh sure Michael, you got it all sorted by using a website to find the cheapest deals and check their reviews. Duuuuh! ”
Did I tell you something new? Probably not!! But that was not my intention. My intention was to give you a light nudge.. a bit of motivation to optimise your life a little bit. It’s not only about the money – sure I saved £707 per year according to uSwitch. It’s about the peace of mind I will have.
Anyone can do it and it feels great afterwards. Have YOU optimised your gas & electricity spending? I’m super happy to help if you need a hand.
After all, there is terrible bureaucracy in the gas & electricity field, and the industry is well known for its bad reputation. However, I believe that with innovation and positive attitude there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I will keep this guide up-to-date with new information if Octopus stop being great or anything. You can stay connected by subscribing.
I feel I should make it clear that I did *not* get paid by Octopus to write this post, and I‘d happily recommend them for free every single time. However, I *will* get paid a few pounds if you sign up using my link. Octopus send you an e-mail after signing up with them, and you too can recommend them to other people if you feel they share your values.