Dual-fuel tariffs or plans are energy contracts where both electricity and gas come from the same energy supplier. Most UK providers will either have both variable and fixed energy tariffs to pick from. Let’s see how you can easily find the best deals for your home.
What is a dual fuel tariff?
There are dozens of private energy utility companies in the UK, supplying British homes with gas and electricity. If you use natural gas for heating your home, for hot water and cooking, you can get on a dual fuel tariff. What this means is that only one energy company will bill you for both how much gas and how much electricity you use.
Instead of having to find two separate energy suppliers, you only have to deal with one for all your household energy needs. Since most UK homes use both gas and electricity, getting both from the same company greatly simplifies billing for residential customers.
Getting both kinds of home energy from the same provider isn’t the end of the story. There are still a couple of choices to make regarding the type of energy tariff as well as billing method and cycle.
Estimated annual costs for an average UK household (3,200 kWh per year for electricity and 13,500 kWh for gas) average £1,150 across the UK and range from £943 (First:Utility, Eastern England) to £1,335 (Ebico, Merseyside and Northern Wales) as of June 2014.
Types of dual fuel energy tariff
The UK has a lot of active energy companies, more than fifty at any given time, while prices and customer service quality vary from one supplier to the next, the main types of tariff (the way they charge for your energy consumption) fall into two main categories:
Variable rate tariffs
With variable tariffs, your gas and electricity unit rates, as well as the daily standing charges, can change from one month to the next. Your energy supplier is supposed to notify you of any price increases so you can see if there is a cheaper supplier out there and switch to them before the rates go up.
Fixed rate tariffs
With fixed tariffs, standing charges as well as gas and electricity unit rates remain constant for the period the tariff runs for, which is usually 12 months. This can bring you peace of mind as long as your energy provider has decent customer service and either supports the smart meter installed in your home or they process your submitted meter readings correctly.
How to pay for a dual fuel tariff
Most energy suppliers give you the option to pay according to your preferred billing cycle. Let’s see what the most common ones are:
- Monthly or quarterly direct debit: When you start off with a new energy company, your first two or three bills may be estimated, based on information you’ve provided. However, once the initial period is over, your direct debit amounts will be based on either meter readings or smart meter data transfers. Monthly billing is generally the best option to avoid surprises and to get the best prices from most energy providers.
- Receipt of bill: Some customers prefer to get a bill in the mail and then pay it either by cheque or at the post office. Generally, this payment method results in slightly higher bills when compared to direct debit.
- Prepayment: This payment option will require a special meter to be fitted that allows you to either top-up its credit using a key for electricity, a card for gas or through a special app or online service. Prepayment tariffs are unfortunately the most expensive on the market and are designed for households that have accrued debt with their energy supplier
Getting the best dual fuel deals in 2020
Here at the Switch, we recommend choosing a green or low carbon energy supplier because their pricing is the same or better than energy companies that get their electricity from coal and gas. There are many to choose from but many have rip-off prices that go right up against the energy price cap set by the government or terrible customer service leaving billing issues unresolved.
Making the switch is easier than you thinkYou generally don’t need to talk to your current supplier. See how easy it is to save and be greener.
Here a couple of companies that provide consistently decent customer service and energy tariffs with competitive pricing.
This Birmingham-based green electricity and carbon offset gas provider has a proven five-year track record of strong customer service. Their dual fuel pricing is competitive when pitted against the rest of the market.
They have fixed tariffs with protected rates that last one or two years, providing peace of mind to their customers. Unlike many other suppliers their fixed tariffs have no exit fees, meaning that if you move to another supplier you won’t be punished even if you’re in the middle of the contract.
Our dual fuel tariff pick from Tonik Energy: Go Green (1 Year) v23
If you are looking for a larger company that has been around for longer, EDF Energy is one of the better large providers in terms of customer service and dual fuel tariff choice. They have both green and low carbon electricity as well as regular natural gas.
EDF is proactive about installing smart meters and they also participate in the Warm Home Discount. If you are eligible, EDF Energy is probably your best option to get the help you need.
Advantages and disadvantages of dual-fuel tariffs
Dual-fuel tariffs simplicity and savings
- It is convenient to group both electricity and gas into one bill, especially if you have an online energy plan where meter readings are submitted online and bills are emailed to you.
- It is simple to have one supplier to contact, instead of two, should you have a complaint. This means calling one number or complaining to one address.
- Energy suppliers offer annual discounts to customers who buy both electricity and gas from them. However, dual-fuel discounts do not usually exceed £20 per year.
- Dual-fuel plans can lead to significant savings if you compare suppliers carefully, especially if combined with online account management and direct debit payments.
Dual-fuel tariffs are only advantageous with the right supplier
Though dual-fuel tariffs can lead to significant savings, they are not necessarily the cheapest option: often, having different suppliers for electricity and gas is even cheaper than a dual-fuel tariff after an extensive comparison. For example, signing up with First:Utility for electricity and with Daligas for gas is cheaper than signing up with First:Utility or Flow Energy (often the two cheapest suppliers) on a dual-fuel tariff.
An incomplete dual-fuel tariff comparison may also lead to choosing an energy supplier with disappointing customer service. In this case, dual-fuel tariffs can be a true hassle if customer care can be reached neither for electricity or for gas issues, and if electricity and gas complaints are both handled slowly by the same supplier. Hence the importance of comparing suppliers at length and picking not only the cheapest but the most reliable.
If you are on a dual-fuel tariff with a fixed unit rate for electricity and gas, early exit fees might deter you from switching suppliers if a better offer comes up on the market. For example, Sainsbury’s Energy (Fixed Price April 2016), British Gas (Fixed Price January 2017) and npower (Intelligent Fix April 2017) all charge a £50 early exit fee per fuel.