Guide to dual fuel energy plans
- Dual fuel deals are likely to be more convenient than arranging gas and electricity supplies separately
- Dual fuel plans may also be cheaper, but that's not necessarily the case
- Use a comparison website to choose from multiple suppliers and have the option ofcomparing gas and electricity plans separately
- Review your options regularly to find the right deal
Dual fuel is simply where one energy company supplies both your gas and electricity on one contract.
As of 31 Janunary 2016, there were 20 million dual fuel customers in the UK according to an energy market investigation† by the Competition and Markets Authority.
There's little doubt that this can prove more convenient than having to deal with two energy suppliers, but note that it's not necessarily the cheapest option.
Historically, such dual fuel deals did tend to be the cheapest as suppliers offer discounts for sourcing both utilities through them.
However, complex pricing tariffs and the rise of firms who specialise in supplying just gas or just electricity mean that dual-fuel tariffs are not always the most competitive.
Everybody's circumstances and needs vary, but in the quote process you can choose to compare dual fuel deals, just compare gas, and/or just compare electricity rates.
As ever, it's best to do as much research as possible before committing. Regularly shopping round and comparing the tariffs on the market could help you find a cheaper and more appropriate deal.
Why should I compare dual fuel deals?
Sticking with the same supplier(s) over a long period is likely to mean that you're on their standard tariff, meaning you can be spending much more than you need to on your energy bills.
You might be put off shopping around for a cheaper energy price by the thought of lots of groundwork and phone calls, but it couldn't be simpler.
Finding the right utilities supplier and tariff through a comparison website such as Gocompare.com is a simple task, and the energy regulator Ofgem is working with utilities companies to streamline and clarify the process further.
It's worth checking your options every six months or so, by using a comparison website to review prices and plans from all UK energy suppliers, including small firms.
How to switch dual fuel
You'll be given a cooling-down period in case you want to change your mind, and then the contract will go ahead.
The new supplier will take up-to-date meter readings and provide a new mandate if you're going to pay by direct debit.
Your new supplier will contact the old one(s) on your behalf.
How do I pay for dual fuel?
Most companies accept all the usual payment methods that can also be used for separate gas and electric contracts.
Your energy company may offer you a lower rate if you pay by direct debit. This is a monthly payment taken from your bank account on the same date each month.
Direct debits are convenient as you don't have to worry about forgetting to pay, and this method saves you the cost of a stamp to put the cheque in the post.
Many customers still do pay their utilities bills by cheque, but most energy firms prefer accounts to be managed online, eliminating the waste and cost of paper.
It's also possible to pay bills over the counter at the Post Office or by postal order. This works like a cheque and is suitable for people who don't have a bank account.
You can also phone the energy firm or go online and pay with your debit or credit card.
What if I run into difficulty paying my bills?
If you have difficulty paying bills it's best to get in touch with the energy company straight away and explain the situation.
If they're not aware of problems, you might find your gas and electricity supplies are cut off.
Energy firms should help customers who are having difficulty paying their bills. They might be able to suggest a different tariff or advise you to switch to a prepayment meter to make sure you don't fall into arrears.
If you're in debt to the energy firm you might not be able to switch to another company offering a better deal, so it's always best to handle any issues before they become a major problem.
What else do I need to know?
Always remember to read the contract thoroughly.
There might be a charge for leaving your new contract early, or a special rate might only be in place until a particular date.
Check the small print and don't be afraid to phone or email the supplier if you want to ask a question, no matter how silly it sounds.
By Rebecca Lees