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Worried about rising energy bills?

We're here to help with free advice for dealing with your money worries.

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i This advice applies across the UK.

How to understand your energy bills

Energy bills contain a lot of information. It can be confusing.

Learn how to check how much energy you use and pay for. This might help you save some money.

Read our guide to gas and electric arrears.

In this guide we cover:

  • What information is on your energy bill
  • How companies calculate your bill
  • Why you should take regular meter readings

Confused by the changing rules on prepayment meters?

OfGem recently announced that some energy suppliers can start installing involuntary prepayment meters again.

Find out if this impacts you here.

What information is on my energy bill?

Most energy bills contain:

  • Your name and address
  • Your account number
  • The name and contact details of your supplier
  • The name of the tariff you are on
  • How much gas and electricity you have used since your last bill
  • Your latest meter readings. These may be estimates
  • Your estimated yearly cost
  • Your payment method
  • The amount you need to pay
  • Reference numbers for your meters

Check your details

Make sure your details are up to date. If not, you could be paying for someone else's energy.

Check that:

  • Your name and full address on the bill are correct
  • The letter is not addressed to ‘the occupier’
  • The meter reference numbers match
  • The billing period only covers time you have lived in the property

If you are moving, take a meter reading:

  • On the day you move out of your old home
  • On the day you move into your new home

Energy tariffs

The tariff is the price you pay per unit for the gas or electricity you use.

This includes a fixed, daily standing charge.

Types of tariff

There are two main tariff types:

  • Fixed rate
  • Variable

Your supplier may offer other tariffs too.

Your energy use

This shows a breakdown of your usage over the last period.

Bills need to show the cost of your energy for the last 12 months. Unless you have been with your supplier for less than a year.

Estimated annual cost

This predicts the cost of your energy for the next year.

It is based on what you have used in the last 12 months.

It assumes you:

  • Stay on the same tariff
  • Use the same amount of energy

Terms and conditions

Suppliers should explain the terms of your contract, including:

  • Exit fees
  • Tariff end dates

Tariff end dates

With a fixed-rate, you roll onto your provider’s standard variable rate when the tariff ends.

Early exit fees

You may need to pay an early exit fee if you want to:

  • Change suppliers
  • Move to a new deal

Your provider cannot charge exit fees if you switch within 49 days of your current deal ending.

How your bill is calculated

Unit rate

The "unit rate" is the price for each unit of gas or electricity you use.

Units are calculated as pence per kiloWatt hour (kWh).

There may be more than one unit rate on your bills. For example, day, night and weekend rates.

What does 'kWh' mean?

A kiloWatt hour is the measure used to explain how much energy you use.

Energy is measured in Watts. 1,000 watts is equal to one kiloWatt (kW).

If you use an appliance rated at 1,000 watts for one hour, you are charged for 1kWh.

Examples of appliances and their kWh energy usage:

  • Electric kettle - 0.1 kWh
  • Electric oven - 1.56 kWh
  • Washing machine - 0.63 kWh
  • LCD TV - 0.21 kWh

Standing charge

A standing charge applies to both gas and electricity.

  • It is a fixed daily charge
  • It covers the cost of your gas and electricity supply

What Credit and Debit means on your bill

  • Credit (or ‘CR’) means you overpaid
  • Debit (or ‘DR’) means you need to pay
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Worried about rising energy bills?

We're here to help with free advice.

Get help now

Why do I need to take meter readings?

You should give a meter reading:

  • When asked
  • Every time you get a bill

If you use estimates, you risk:

  • Paying too much
  • Paying too little

If you underpay, you have to pay a lot at the end of the year.

Smart meters

You normally do not need to give a meter reading if you have a smart meter.

But you might need to take a meter reading if:

  • You switched suppliers
  • You moved
  • Your supplier cannot take automated reads

If your bill is higher than you think it should be:

  • Check if it is based on estimates
  • Send a true meter reading and ask for the bill to be changed

Meter reference numbers

Check the numbers on your meter and bills are the same.

Meter numbers are linked to a property.

  • Your provider uses these numbers to make sure energy goes to the right home
  • The number stays the same if you switch supplier or get a new meter

For your electricity meter:

  • There is a 12-digit code
  • This is called the MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number)

For your gas meter:

  • There will be a code between six and eleven digits
  • This is called the MPRN (Meter Point Reference Number)

If any of the details are wrong:

  • Contact your supplier
  • Ask them to update your details

How to pay and payment dates

You can save money paying by Direct Debit.

Fixed Direct Debit payments let you spread the cost over the year. This is sometimes called a payment plan.

  • You can build up credit by using less energy
  • This can help cover your bills in winter

Contact details

Your bills should have details of:

  • How to pay
  • Who to contact if you have a complaint or a problem with your supply

If you have a complaint about your bill

Contact your supplier and follow their complaints process.

There are organisations that can help if you are not happy with their response.

Help is available

Contact your supplier if you are struggling to pay your bill.

You can also read our guide to getting help with your water bills.