How to Understand Your Gas Bill

How to Understand Your Gas Bill

If you receive a gas bill, you may find that (until now), you’ve just paid attention to the amount owed for the month or timeframe in question. 

However, it could be helpful to know what the other details appearing on your gas bill actually mean. 

What’s more, by better understanding your gas bill you may be able to spot an unexpected rise in gas use, which could point to an issue with your boiler that needs fixing. 

Let’s take an in depth look at your gas bill!

Please note that the existence of the Energy Price Guarantee, which currently limits the average annual household bill to £2,500 a year, your gas bill may not read as it would have before or how it will once the guarantee is discontinued. 

What’s Included in a Gas Bill?

The exact details shown on a gas bill (and where they will appear) can vary depending on the energy company. Gas bills, of course, tend to be monthly, although this may not be the case for everyone. 

Please note that if you pay for your gas bills through direct debit, you may receive monthly statements rather than bills.

All in all, though, for those who are receiving gas bills, some specific details will almost certainly be present, regardless of the provider.

On your gas bill, you should see the following:

  • Name and Address – General information will likely appear toward the top of your bill, including your name and address.
  • Account Number – You should also see your account number toward the top of the bill. If at any point you need to get in touch with your gas provider, you should quote this number so they can access your account details on their end.
  • Statement Date & Period – Two dates that you should also find near the top of your bill are the statement date and statement period. The latter refers to the duration you are being billed for. This may cover the previous month. However, it may cover a shorter or longer timeframe, depending on how often you are billed.
  • Debit and Credit Amount – Your bill should state that you are either in credit or in debit and by how much. To clarify, in debit means that you owe your gas provider money. On the other hand, if you are ‘in credit’, this is basically the same as how your mobile phone credit works. It is a credit you can use to cover your gas bills. You could even interpret being in credit as the gas company owing you money, although their repayment would simply be in the form of a reduced bill (i.e., the more credit you have, the less there is to pay with cash for the next bill if you’d like to use your credit, of course). We’ll discuss more on being in debit or in credit below.
  • Previous Payment and What You Owe – Further down your bill you should find what you previously paid and what you currently owe. If you are in debit, what you owe for the given month/timeframe plus the total amount you are in debit will be added together to give the overall amount you owe your gas provider. Let’s say you have a monthly bill of £50 and you are in debit by £30, then your bill would state that the total due is £80.
  • Detailed Usage Breakdown – Below the details regarding what you owe, you will probably find a detailed usage breakdown. This part of your bill will likely include the meter readings for the latest statement period and previous meter readings. What’s more, you should expect to find your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) in this section of the bill. This is a ten-digit number that, as you might guess, is specific to your gas meter. By analysing this section, you’ll be able to see how much gas you’re using and compare meter readings. In some cases, gas providers will base your bill on estimated readings. On the other hand, some providers will require customers to provide monthly readings which would mean greater accuracy.
  • Additional Fees – If applicable, additional fees may also appear somewhere on your bill. For instance, gas suppliers will charge an annual standing charge, although they tend to break this up such that you will pay it in monthly segments. So, don’t be surprised to see a standing charge on your bill each month. A standing charge is essentially an admin fee to cover the cost of having your property connected to an energy source. In some cases, gas providers offer no standing charges albeit this tends to mean they’ll charge a higher cost per unit of gas. So, even if an energy company has zero standing charges, they may still prove more expensive overall or charge about the same as those who do have standing charges, when all costs/bills are taken into account.
  • Advice and Tips – Some bills will also include advice and tips explaining how you might be able to save on your heating bills. For example, each British Gas bill comes with a ‘Could I pay less?’ section where they advertise tariff switching, specifically to that of a fixed tariff. Tariff, in this case, refers to the rates you will pay for your bills and how they are determined. Variable tariffs rise and fall depending on changing market price, however, fixed tariffs are set in stone for a certain time period. Usually, these fixed periods cover a timeframe of 1 to 2 years. Going on a fixed tariff would be a smart move if you think prices will increase in the future. However, if energy prices were to fall, then going on a fixed tariff could lose you money. Given the existence of the Energy Price Guarantee and the volatility of market prices (which will probably remain the case for some time to come), it would arguably be unwise to switch to a fixed price tariff right now (as of November 2022).

In Debit and In Credit

As mentioned, if you are already in debit going into a given statement period, you should see both your debit amount and what you owe for the latest statement period. Then you should also see a subtotal of these two amounts below.

Should you fail to keep up with your bills, your total debit amount will continue to rise. If this happens, your provider may ask you to take on increased monthly payments for a temporary timespan until you’ve paid off your debt.

More on Meter Readings

Returning to the detailed usage section (i.e., the section containing information on your current and previous meter readings and your MPRN), the meter readings shown here should tell you how much gas you’ve used in terms of kWhs.

While meter readings work by measuring the amount of gas used in cubic meters or free (i.e., gas units), these will be converted into kWh on your bill using a conversion factor. The conversion factor can vary over time.

By looking at your bill, you should see the total kWhs used over the lifetime of your gas use with the provider in question at given intervals, including this present. 

This way, if, for instance, you are billed monthly, by taking the kWh usage for the latest statement date and minus that of the previous month, you will know how much gas (in kWhs) you used during the latest statement period. 

Again, how exact this figure will be would depend on how your meter readings work, such as whether you provide them to the company yourself.

Your kWh usage for the latest statement period multiplied by the current kWh rate will give you your total.

Spotting Potential Issues

Now that you are better equipped to more easily understand your gas bill, you’re more likely to spot anomalies on your bill sooner rather than later.

If, for example, you notice that your bill shows a dramatic and unexpected rise in your gas usage (not to be confused with an increased bill cost as rates may have changed) from one month to the next, this may mean that there is an issue with your boiler or your heating system as a whole. We’d recommend first contacting your supplier to ensure they haven’t made a mistake on their end. 

If everything is fine on their end, your next port of call should be to hire a Gas Safe Registered engineer. Have the heating engineer come by to take a look at your boiler and heating system. 

Please note, however, that if you have any other reason to already believe there’s an issue with your boiler (or are simply concerned for any reason), you should not wait to contact your supplier about potential issues. Instead, in that scenario, you should contact a heating engineer right away.

If they were to spot an issue and you have it fixed promptly, you can see how quickly analysing your gas bill each time you receive one could save you money. After all, if an issue with your boiler/heating system is spotted and resolved early, it could prevent it from worsening or/and leading to other issues. 

Ultimately, this could prevent more costly repairs down the line or even prevent your boiler from breaking down completely from a combination of problems such that a replacement would be required.

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