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How to understand my gas & electricity bills

Updated: May 25, 2022

You don't have to be a new homeowner to feel confused when looking at your bills.

They're not always as user friendly as they could be.

It looks like an arduous task so invariably they get shoved to the I'll get around to that pile.

"They just get paid every month" is what I hear most of the time.

How much do you pay a year? It's likely to be anything from £900 to £1500 depending on the size of your home, how old it is, and how many are living there, so to have a quick glance at them monthly to be sure you're paying the right amount can make a big difference.

Yes the billing departments do keep an eye on your accounts but usually it's a 3 month or even a 6 month review when it's a new account or annually if it's not - not a great idea to leave it that long to find out you're in in a debit situation.

First here is a short video from the Energy Savings Trust to simplify the bills.

Now let's take a look at two examples & what the terminology means then we'll move onto smart meters & how to read your non smart meter.

This is a UW sample bill, the second is British Gas. The first link at the bottom of this page directs you to be able to have a look at sample bills from several UK suppliers, they can all look a bit different.

Download PDF • 4.47MB

This pdf opens in a new window & gives you a complete sample bill if you were to have more than just the energy services with UW - so convenient to have things all in one place I love it!

Here are examples of the electricity and gas breakdown pages:

So what about the jargon, whats a kWh?

  1. kWh = kilowatt hours. The measurement of units of gas & electricity. These are charged as individual units when used at the rate your supplier charges you. The meters show how many units you are using, more on that further down. Your estimated usage for the year is clearly shown and you can compare your actual usage with this estimate. If you've got a years worth of use behind you, you're likely to use a similar amount if nothing much has changed in your home. We have another blog journal on usage here

  2. Standing charge is the daily rate you pay whether you are using any energy or not. This pays for the company to manage your account etc. Current pricing is on average 24 pence per day so around £90 a year as a fixed charge.

  3. VAT is charged at 5% on domestic tariffs and is paid to the government - this has to be displayed on your bill

  4. MPAN is the supply number specifically to your meter for electricity and MPRN the same for gas. The main database for all of these is with the UK Power Networks who are responsible for creating them for new builds & replacements. You can see on the above gas example that this is called Meter Point Number and for electricity this is called Supply Number and is a 13 digit number shown in the box marked S

  5. Budget plan or arrears plan - a budget plan allows you to pay in equal monthly instalments for your expected usage over the 12 months and arrears is to pay for what you have used during the last billing cycle. Most people prefer the budget option as you pay the same in the summer as the winter meaning you don't have huge bills for part of the year. Sometimes your account will be in debit (you owe them) sometimes in credit (they owe you). It's important to remember this is how it's supposed to be using a budget system. If it looks like you're overpaying or underpaying the supplier will let you know and adjust your payments accordingly. If you have a lot in credit you can ask for it to be reimbursed although most suppliers will reduce your monthly instalments so your account will be in line at the end of the contract term. If you're still in credit they will refund you.

  6. The tariff is clearly shown, when it is coming to an end if it's a fixed rate & the early termination fees to be paid by you if you leave before the end - normally around £25

  7. There will always be a "could you pay less" section to be clear about your upcoming options

Ofgem licensing regulations state that if you're in the last 49 days of your contract known as the "switching window" you can change suppliers or tariffs without the exit fee. This is also the case if they have let you know the end of your contract is approaching and you want to stay with them on another tariff.

The tariff is important as it will determine your costs for the duration of the contract. A standard variable rate will change up and down with the market conditions and is rarely the cheapest option - although for several weeks this summer it has been the cheapest option but this won't last.

A fixed tariff will have an end date - when this is coming up it is strongly advisable to look for a good deal either with your supplier or look to switch.

Some people enjoy this process every year, most do not!

Comparison sites can be really useful but they can also be confusing with vast amounts of options and therefore time consuming.

What you see on the first page of choices are invariably the companies who have paid more on advertising to be put in front of you rather than necessarily the best options for you. Be prepared for a good scroll ...

Meter readings are critical so that you know you're on top of paying what you should be.

If you are moving house DO NOT forget to take a meter reading on your first day as this will be the start of your responsibility - likewise if you've moved out of a property where you were paying the bills take a final meter reading there & upload to your supplier.

Taking a photo of these is perfect as you have a visual timestamped proof of these.

If you are moving as a first time buyer, or even if you've not done it for many years, this new home buyers guide will be excellent for you.

Click the button to have a look at what it will do for you.

From thinking to threshold it will cover the lot!

We have another article on Smart Meters - if you would like to have a read please

Taking manual meter readings is easy, the display on the front of the meter will give you a number that you make a note of & either call your supplier with this or more likely use your online account or app to enter this number.

Make sure you know where your gas & electricity meters are so that you can do this. If you need a spare key to open the cupboards you can always ask your supplier to send you one or buy one on amazon they're universal.

This is a typical gas meter where you can see the numbers on the dial. These turn for every unit you use. If you use 500 kWh per month in the summer then you'll see the dial move accordingly. Having a smart meter prevents you having to take manual readings as they are digital & communicate automatically to the supplier.


So onto another example this time with British Gas:

So this statement is for 3 months, you can see the direct debits added into your account with the total of what was paid.

The account is in credit. Paying £44 a month adds up to the projected, or assumed usage over the year you can see in the blue boxes under section 3.

In section 2 they are advising that the direct debits are increasing by a few pounds. Why if you are in credit?

Well it would be assumed that this credit isn't quite enough to maintain current usage levels, specifically gas, for the next 5 ½ months of the contract. The electricity payments in this example is staying the same. A good example of someone looking after your account.

As with UW, the tariff information is showing, this time under section 4 with all the relevant usage & exit fee payments. It also shows your latest actual meter reading, if none are given it will show as estimated or "E". It's ok to miss a couple of months but not a good idea to miss too many or your account could very well be all wrong & you'll end up with a larger debit that you thought especially during the Autumn & Winter.


Did you find that useful?

Feel free to share, like, comment.

If you fancy a quick chat with me to find out more about consolidating your utilities so that you can manage them simply please book in for a free chat here.

No obligation lets just find out what would be useful for you.

It could be that it's not ideal timing so once I know what would work for you I can arrange to call you again in 3, 6, 12 months whatever. Once less thing for you to think about!

Resources & credits to the following websites:

Thank you for reading



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