Who was William Overton, you’ve never asked, ever? Only the first person in Melbourne to have a gas lamp, over 160 years ago. He built his own gasworks out the back of his sweet shop on Swanston Street. He sounds sane, right? The guy was a mix between Thomas Edison, Santa Clause and Willy Wonka, and if he had lived to hear the term “compare your utility provider”, he’d most likely cry. Tears of joy though, don’t worry. No one was in favour of progress like old Overton. So keep him in mind as you read over how to choose utility providers in the 21st century.
Look within before you look online
That is a stupid way of saying, what kind of consumer are you? You could easily go with the first plan thrown your way but you can save money if you choose plans that suit your lifestyle and usage. Consider the following things when you start comparing plans:
First off, what kind of lifestyle do you live? If you’re home all day during the week, then a time of use tariff is most likely what you’re after. At work during the week? Then a single rate tariff is more your deal. In other words, when you use your appliances can effect how much you pay.
Type A or Type B
Are your bills stacked up neatly under the label ‘paid’ in a filing cabinet or are they pinned to your walls like a CSI criminal investigation? If you tend to be on top of these things, some plans reward paying on time with discounts, as well as for paying via direct debit.
Say hello to the sun
Do you love the environment? That’s a loaded question; don’t answer it. But you may be building a home or renovating a place you’ve just moved into. In this case, think about installing solar panels above your home. They do cost more at first but if you intend to be in the building for a long-term period, these costs are offset by the money you save by either being partially off grid or by putting energy back into the grid. Many energy providers will provide a net feed-in tariff, where you get credited for the energy you put back into the system.
So far we have: when you’re home, how organised you are and whether you enjoy harnessing the power of the sun. One more then: how vengeful are you?
A market retail offer is a plan that may be cheaper, but retailers set prices and these can change at any time, even if you have just chosen the plan. So if Anger Management was a poignant movie for you, then a standard retail offer might be up your alley. Governments often set prices with these and they can’t change more than once every six months. Also for the vengeful types, note what fees your plan contains.
So based on who you are those are the four main things to consider for your utilities:
- Tariffs (how you want your energy to be priced)
- Discounts and fees
- Rewards for solar use
- Types of energy offers
Where to go next?
So you have done some soul searching. You want a plan that realises you work from home, will be thankful that you are a wizard with your bills and the home you have bought already comes with solar panels (win!) What next?
This part is actually easy. While you could go to individual provider websites and compare their plans, it is worth visiting the government-run Energy Made Easy website or if you are in Victoria, the Victorian Energy Compare website.
These are probably some of the better government websites around. They contain plenty of information about energy options as well as a user-friendly method to compare retailers. For instance, some plans offer a ‘benefit period’ that includes a discount. You can search on these sites with a filter that only shows plans with benefit periods. The same goes for discounts, rewards, different energy offers and tariff types.
But you may not have time for soul searching. You have just moved in to your home, realised there is no electricity or gas and this is not ok! If this is the case, your real estate agent can help you set up these things through a third-party. But considering the time and research you have put into buying a fridge, it is worth doing the same for your utilities before you move.