In theory, you can switch energy suppliers every 28 days. But that doesn't mean that you necessarily should. In fact, switching at the wrong time can prove costly for a number of reasons.
Switching to a fixed-rate energy deal is a quick and easy way to cut your energy bills, particularly if you're switching from an expensive variable rate tariff.
This is because fixed-rate tariffs not only offer better rates than variable tariffs, the unit rate you pay (which covers the cost of the energy you use) is fixed for the duration of your contract. This means your bills won't be affected even if energy prices rise.
But many energy suppliers will charge you a penalty fee for leaving your fixed-rate deal early. Charged per fuel, these fees can go way above £100 if you're exiting a dual fuel deal, which can seriously eat into any savings you might make by switching.
So, unless your fixed-rate deal doesn't have an exit fee, it's probably not worth switching until there's 49 days or less left to run on your contract. Once your deal enters its final 49 days, you're free to switch and your supplier can't charge an exit fee.
Standard variable rate tariffs are the default energy tariffs that your supplier will place you on when you're fixed-rate deal ends, or if you move into a new property without arranging a different deal.
The rates charged on these tariffs are usually among the most expensive offered by energy suppliers. The good news is that you can switch from a standard variable rate tariff whenever you want and your supplier can't charge an exit fee.
This is entirely up to you, but it probably only makes sense to compare energy prices every six months or so. This way you'll be able to see if prices have risen or fallen and work out if you can save money by going elsewhere.
But you should only switch if you're going to save money - there's no point switching for the sake of it. You might also want to switch supplier if your current energy provider offers poor customer service or has billing issues.
If your energy supplier has gone bust, you should also switch as soon as you've been appointed a new supplier - known as a Supplier of Last Resort (SoLR) by Ofgem, the energy regulator. This is because your new supplier won't be offering you the best possible rates and you can switch away from these SoLR deals without being charged a penalty fee.
If you are on your supplier's standard variable rate for gas, electricity, or both, then you should switch as soon as possible.
Although you should check prices every six months or so, switching once a year is probably your best bet.
Although signing up for a two-year deal may seem like a good way to protect yourself against multiple prices rises, these 24-month contracts usually have higher rates than 12-month fixes. This means you may actually save more by switching every 12 months, regardless of price rises.
You should also consider switching if energy prices are set to rise. It's usually the case that when one of the larger suppliers increase their rates, the rest follow soon after.
If you're really serious about getting the best rates, you might even want to keep an eye on the ever-changing world oil prices. When the oil market begins to dip, energy prices usually follow (although suppliers aren't always quick to pass the savings they're making onto their customers).
In this instance, it makes sense to switch as soon as possible (so long as you don't get hit by massive early exit fees). This is because suppliers usually limit the number of people that can sign up for a fixed-rate deal before they pull it from the market and replace it with a new version with higher rates.
It also makes sense to switch suppliers before winter arrives - again, provided you won't be hit with extortionate exit fees. This is because the greater demand for energy in the winter months invariably pushes prices up.
If you're on your supplier's standard variable rate tariff, then you'll definitely save money by switching to a fixed-rate deal.
It's also likely that you'll save money if you switch to a new deal as your current one is expiring. If you let your deal expire without sorting a new one, your supplier will switch you to more expensive rates, so you should always look to switch as your deal enters its last 49 days.
It only takes a few minutes to compare energy prices with The Energy Shop, and we'll process the switch as soon as you choose the deal you like best. This means we'll take care of the formalities of letting your old and new suppliers know about the change.
The switch should then be finalised within 21 days but may well go through a lot sooner.
And remember, if you change your mind then you have a 14-day "cool off period" when you can cancel your application and revert back to your previous energy supplier.
You can switch energy suppliers in just a few simple steps with The Energy Shop:
To start an energy price comparison, enter your postcode in the box on the right and we'll instantly find the best energy prices in your area.