As temperatures fall, the prices are rising

As energy firms hike up costs, we need to find the best deal
As energy firms hike up costs, we need to find the best deal
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Call me cynical, but just as the nights start to draw in and the first signs of a chill in the evening air appear we get the annual round of electricity and gas price rises.

First out of the starting blocks this year is Scottish and Southern Energy, better known to most of us as Southern Electric.

From October 15, it is hiking its energy prices by a wallet-busting £116 a year – or nine per cent, lifting average annual bills to £1,354, one of the most expensive tariffs on the market.

Scott Byrom, energy expert at MoneySupermarket.com, believes the worst is yet to come and consumers need to get their skates on if they are to make worthwhile savings.

‘I expect a domino effect in the market as other members of the Big Six providers follow suit,’ he says.

‘Switching providers can take up to six weeks, so customers languishing on expensive standard tariffs need to act now to ensure they switch on to the best deal.’

PROTECT YOURSELF

The best way to avoid a predictable big hit in the household energy budget is to fix your costs in advance.

Fixed-price tariffs guarantee your bills won’t increase for a set period of time, even if further price rises come into effect.

Fixed-price deals are widely available from most suppliers.

WHAT’S THE SNAG?

There are two to watch out for.

The most important thing to consider is the length of the fixed deal. Currently there are a number of cheap fixed deals running as far ahead as April 2014.

The best ones provide most reassurance, as you are protected from price increases for up to 18 months ahead.

The downside is that some deals come with a nasty sting in the tail in the shape of penalties if you decide to switch suppliers before the fixed date expires.

This would cramp your style should energy prices unexpectedly fall and you want to switch again.

WHY THE HURRY?

It’s essential to act immediately on available fixed price deals as many suppliers only offer this tariff option for a limited time.

The current top deal from EDF, the Blue+ Price Promise 2014, is in the process of gradually being withdrawn.

This was the one of the cheapest fixed price deals on the market which had no penalties or cancellation fees, leaving only Scottish Power with a similar offer. EDF’s Blue+ Price Promise is still likely to be available direct from EDF until the end of September.

As further price hikes loom, if you don’t make your move now you’ll find all the best deals have been snapped up and you’ll be paying over the odds for gas and electricity.