With household energy bills set to continue to skyrocket well into next year and impact the 4.5 million homes that utilise prepayment meters, what can you do to make things easier and keep bills as low as possible?
Traditionally, paying for energy with a prepayment meter has been one of the most expensive methods, especially when compared to monthly direct debit.
Yet for many households they offer an easy way to manage their energy bills and keep tabs on exactly how much energy they have used and how much money they have spent.
Unfortunately, this also means energy companies are unable to predict your usage and so you pay a higher price as a result of this added perceived risk.
Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks to bear in mind that can help keep your energy use low and therefore your energy bills as low as possible too.
Prepayment Energy Meter Tricks (Electric & Gas)
Here are some tricks you can employ to keep to help you if you use a prepayment electric or gas meter:
1. Keep Your Energy Use As Low As Possible
This may sound a little too obvious, but you should aim to keep your energy use as low as possible.
One great way to do is to make the most of the concept of zonal heating for example.
This essentially means only heating the “zone” you are going to be spending the majority of your time in vs your whole house.
This is easy to do, for instance, if you use gas central heating, you can easily turn the radiators in all other rooms down using the thermostatic radiator valves.
2. Top Up Your Prepayment Meter at the Best Times
Not everyone is aware of this, but it often makes financial sense to top up your prepayment meter before a new energy price cap begins.
Of course this depends if it is increasing, but on the 1st of October they did and the likelihood is that they will continue to do so in the new year.
This will usually mean you will pay the old and ideally cheaper price for your energy, which is a major advantage.
One caveat of this is that there are no guarantees since there have been many reports about people finding this isn’t always the case if you have a smart meter vs an old style meter, as well as the energy company you are using.
3. Check If You May Be Eligible for Free Fuel Vouchers
Not everyone is, but you may be eligible for fee fuel vouchers.
In order to qualify for a free energy/fuel voucher you will need to receive a referral from a local specified organisation in your area. This commonly includes food banks, the local council or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
The important thing to note is that fuel voucher eligibility can be different depending where you reside in the UK.
Some areas only provide free fuel vouchers to those deemed vulnerable e.g. the elderly, those with children in their care or a specified health condition.
The free fuel vouchers are typically for the amount of £49 or less and the exact amount will largely depend on your individual circumstances and your location.
4. Switch Energy Supplier/Provider
While it’s not always the case, it can often make sense to change to a different energy supplier if you want a more competitive energy tariff for your prepayment meter.
However, the reality is that many energy companies are not currently taking on any new customers in light of the ongoing energy crisis, but this is certainly something to keep track of.
5. Utilise The Energy Bills Support Scheme
Most households will be getting help with their winter fuel bill, in the form of the UK government’s £400 energy rebate.
This £400 rebate is going to be credit to domestic energy accounts by default, however, if you use a prepayment energy meter you will need to collect and redeem a discount voucher instead.
6. Install A Smart Meter
Energy companies are aiming to install modern smart meters into all UK homes and are currently using second generation models that can even be used with solar panels.
The best part is that smart meters can be used for prepayment meters as well as those on energy tariffs paid via direct debit.
Another major advantage is that smart meters can be topped up from your smartphone meaning you no longer have to worry about travelling to the local top up point.
In terms of saving money on your energy bills, smart meters offer you the ability to check your energy use and keep tabs on it more easily.
7. Consider Changing Your Prepayment Meter
Although you may be used to using a prepayment meter to manage your energy bills, the reality is they are more expensive than post-pay meters.
Trading your prepayment meter in for a credit meter enables you to access many more different and more competitive energy tariffs.
If you do want to pursue this, the easiest way to switch is to talk to your current energy supplier and request an energy meter switch.
Bear in mind that this isn’t always possible, especially in cases where you may have accumulated energy debts in the past.
Energy Prepayment Meter FAQ
How do prepayment meters work?
In general most households have post pay meters, this means they pay for their energy after they have used it.
In the case of a prepayment meter, the opposite is true, you pay for your energy before you use it instead.
Essentially a prepayment meter means you top up your meter similar to PAY-AS-YOU GO mobile sim card deals.
I can’t afford to top up my prepayment meter, what should I do?
If you are struggling to pay for your energy, the good news is that help is available.
Your first port of call is with your energy supplier, contact them directly and they will be able to offer you emergency energy credit, this is typically automatically applied to your prepayment meter.
Bear in mind that they will typically only do this if your household is considered vulnerable i.e. you have a certain health condition or you are elderly.
How much more expensive are prepayment meters?
It’s no secret that prepayment meters are more expensive than those who pay by direct debit.
However, surprisingly it’s not the most expensive method,
Well, it appears that right now those who opt to pay by credit e.g. credit card now pay the most.
In fact, average variable charges cost 9% more and fixed charges cost 22% more when paying by credit than paying by direct debit.
In the table below you can see a price comparison based on payment type:
|Payment type||Credit||Direct debit||Prepayment|
|Area||Avg unit price (p/kWh)||Avg fixed cost (£/year)||Avg unit price (p/kWh)||Avg fixed cost (£/year)||Avg unit price (p/kWh)||Avg fixed cost (£/year)|
|Merseyside & North Wales||21.7||£97.0||19.7||£80.8||20.9||£73.2|