How to understand your gas bill
Your gas bill is probably something that you receive from your utility company every month, but do you ever stop to read it or do you just check the amount and put it to one side? It may be important to know what your gas bill is actually telling you in case you’re overcharged, undercharged or billed for energy you didn’t use. Read on to find out the information your gas bill could reveal.
How to read your gas bill
Before we dive straight in, it’s important to note that each bill may look slightly different depending on your provider and the type of tariff you’re on. If you pay your bills via direct debit, it could be a monthly statement rather than a bill, whereas if it’s a demand for payment, it will tell you the amount that is due. The bill may also contain information for electricity as well as gas if you’re on a dual fuel tariff.
The first thing you’ll notice is some general information about you, including your name and address at the top of the bill, as well as your account number and the date. This account number should be quoted if you ever need to phone your provider to discuss your energy needs.
As well as the date at the top which shows when the letter was printed, there will also be a billing period date that shows you the time period you’re being billed for. This is generally a 30-day timeframe unless you are billed less frequently than once per month.
Underneath this information, you’ll find some more specific data about the type of tariff you’re on, your estimated usage and how much energy you’ve actually used, either in cubic metres or kilowatt hours (kWhs). This is the information that is used to work out how much gas you’ve used and therefore how much you owe and so it’s important to understand it. Let’s dig into this data further.
The bill will show the balance that you owed on your last statement and this should have already been paid. This figure is generally followed by the amount that you actually paid the previous month. So, for example, the ‘balance at your last review’ or ‘balance of your last statement’ may have been £90. If you paid this in full, then the bill will state this. If you partially paid for this and submitted a £50 payment, the bill will state that you are £40 in debit.
What does debit mean on a gas bill?
You may have noticed that your bill says you’re in debit. Credit and debit on a gas bill can confuse people as their meanings are slightly different to how you might generally understand these terms. Debit is the amount that you owe and credit is the amount that you’ve paid. For example, if your bill states that you have £50 credit, this is the amount you’ve paid most recently. If it states £50 debit, this is what you owe to the provider.
If you aren’t paying enough towards your bills each month, the debit that you owe can increase. In this circumstance, the provider may request that you temporarily increase your monthly payments to get rid of any money owed.
Underneath the section that states what you’ve paid previously, the bill will show what you currently owe this month, adding this figure and any debit figures together to produce one number. For example, if the bill for this month is £90 and you were in debit by £40, you would owe these two figures added together - meaning your bill would state a total amount due of £130.
Underneath the summary of what you owe, you’ll see a more detailed breakdown of your usage. Within this table, you’ll find your MPRN number (a 10-digit figure that’s unique to your gas meter) as well as your previous meter readings and this month’s meter readings. This allows you to see your usage and compare the readings. Some providers base the bill on estimated readings, however if you are required to supply readings every month, these will be more precise.
If the reading in February, for instance, shows as 6135 and the reading in March shows 6337, you’ve used 202 units of gas. This figure will be automatically converted into kWhs on your bill and then multiplied by the kWh rate to provide your total. In this example, 202 units of gas converts to 2,244 kWhs. The price per kWh is usually around three to four pence. If the rate is four pence, your total bill would come in at around £89.76.
When you break these figures down, they don’t look so confusing. Working your bill out in this way allows you to see whether the meter readings are correct and whether you’re paying the correct rate for your gas. It could prevent issues with overpaying or inaccurate bills in the future. You may also be able to see if there’s a big jump in your gas usage, as this could be a sign of a problem, such as a faulty boiler burning more gas than it should.
For a list of sample bills from the UK’s top energy suppliers, also known as the Big Six, see the Money Saving Expert website.
What is a standing charge on a gas bill?
A standing charge is a yearly fee that must be paid to your energy supplier. This figure will generally be broken down so that instead of making one bulk payment, you pay a little bit of the charge each month. The bill might even break it down to show you how much you pay per day.
The charge is paid to your energy provider as a kind of admin fee for keeping your home connected to an energy supply. As long as your home is connected, even if you don’t use any gas that day, you will have to pay a standing charge. The amount you owe is dependent on your provider, but the gas standing charge can range from 10 p to 80 p per day. You should make a note of your daily standing charge just so you have an idea of how much you’re paying.
Some energy suppliers waive their standing charges and set them to zero, however do be cautious of this as they will generally increase the price per unit of energy, so you may end up paying more that way.