Understanding your gas or electricity bill
Table of Contents
We know making sense of gas and electricity bills and statements can be difficult, especially when you’re already feeling concerned about price rises.
We’ve pulled together some information on what you can expect to see within a typical bill and we’ll talk you through the various sections below.
You’ll find your energy supplier has made their contact details really clear on the paperwork. If you want to ask a question, give them your meter readings or change your tariff, you can use this information to get in touch with them. You should also see some emergency phone numbers on your bill, just to have to hand in case you smell gas or have a problem with your electricity.
Other contact details on your bill will include your unique account number (you’ll have to quote this to access your account online or if you speak to them directly) and the address where the energy is being used. Your bill will also contain the date the bill itself was created.
Your bill will show how much your total charges are for the energy you’ve used since your last bill or statement. If you had any credit on your account, or if you were in debt on your last bill, the new account balance will show you how much is left to pay. A full breakdown of this will be included on the second or third page of your bill or statement.
If any of your old readings have been amended or if you’ve had charges cancelled, a summary can be found on your bill. You’ll also be able to see how much, in total, you’ve paid your supplier since your last bill or statement.
There’ll be a section on your bill showing important information. Depending on how you pay, this could let you know if your Direct Debit needs to go up (or down). If you don’t pay by Direct Debit, it may let you know what the benefits of paying that way are.
Estimated or actual readings
Your meter or meters (depending on if you have more than one supply) records how much energy you’ve used. Your energy supplier will use these readings to charge you for how much you’ve used, or how much they think you’ve used in your monthly, quarterly or in some cases six-monthly or even annual bills or statements.
If you have a smart meter, have given your supplier a reading, or if someone has read your meter for you, this is known as an “Actual” read. Actual reads are always the best option as this means you’ll be paying for the exact amount of energy you’ve used.
“Estimated” reads are used when your supplier hasn’t been able to get an actual reading. Most energy companies will have an idea of how much you use each year (based on the size of your property and previous usage etc) and they’ll use that to work out how much you’ve likely used in this billing period.
If you’re not sure how to read your meter, or you can’t read it due to where it is – let your energy supplier know and they will help talk you through how to take a reading.
Your supplier should make it really clear if they’ve charged you using estimated or actual readings. If they’ve estimated readings, they should let you know how you can give them actual readings. They should also let you know the details about any changes to your accounts, including:
- If you’ve had any refunds
- If your tariff or prices have changed
- If any of your previous charges have been updated or cancelled
Breakdown of your charges
There’ll be a section on your bill showing you the dates they’re charging you for, as well as detail on whether your charges have been estimated or if they’re actual readings. You’ll also see how many days ‘standing charge’ has been included and how much that costs (this is a fixed daily amount that you have to pay, no matter how much energy you use). If you have more than one meter, or if you have both electricity and gas meters, you’ll see a breakdown for each supply. If you have any discounts for paying a certain way, or for having both gas and electricity, they’ll also be shown in this section.
Your bill or statement may also show some graphs comparing how much (in total) gas and electricity you’ve used since your last one, the dates you’re being charged for in this particular bill or statement, as well as how much energy you used in the same period last year.
Unique meter information
On your bill, there will be unique information about your meter as well as your distributor details. Energy distributors are slightly different from energy suppliers as these are the companies who are responsible for the network of power lines, underground cables and sub-stations.
This shows how much your supplier thinks you’re going to use over the next year. This is for comparison purposes only as your supplier will estimate this based on you using the same amount of energy as you did in the last year – it’ll also only be based on your current prices.
Understanding how energy is measured
1 unit of electricity is measured as a kilowatt hour and you’ll see this written as “kWh”. 1 “kWh” means you’ve used the equivalent power of 1,000 watts over a single hour and the more energy you use, the higher the number of kWh.
A kilowatt-hour (kWh) and a kilowatt (kW) may look like your suppliers made a spelling mistake – but don’t worry, they haven’t! Both kW and kWh are units of measurement, the main difference is that a kWh shows the total amount of electricity used, and kW shows the rate of electricity usage. Simply put, kW is how much energy your device needs to work, and kWh represents how much energy has actually been used.
Getting help if you can’t afford your energy bills
If you’re struggling to pay for your energy or think you may get into difficulty, contact your supplier as soon as possible. Ofgem is the energy industries’ ombudsman and their rules mean that a supplier must offer payment plans that you can afford. And if you have a prepayment or Smart Pay as you Go meter, you can ask for emergency credit if you can’t afford to top it up.
Most suppliers as well as Ofgem and Energy UK have put together fresh ways to help to support you this winter, including the Energy Bills Support Scheme to help deal with rising bills.
We’re here to help if you need debt advice or to organise breathing space to give you some time to help you deal with your finances. Get in touch with us today at www.payplan.com.