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It's time to change your energy provider

The sun may be shining now, but switching energy takes around two months, so in ‘energy time’, we’re actually in November.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is here with his top tips to help you pay the cheapest price for your energy in time for when the central heating’s on full tilt.

Many people say “there’s no point switching, they’re all the same”, yet as I’ll show you, both onprice and service there are big differences. If you've been mistreated or pay too much, take providers on by denying them your custom – and do it now.

Many can save £200/year switching. Lots of companies are fighting to offer the cheapest 'fixed' deals and keep undercutting each other - though these only tend to be available for a short time.

Better still, as standard prices are unchanged, and likely to remain so for the rest of the year, there's a level playing field, so you get a true comparison.

All the top prices right now are fixed deals. A fix is where you're ensured no rate hikes for a set time (as opposed to variable tariffs where rates can rise). Obviously, the amount you'll be charged still depends on how much you use.

Someone with typical bills pays an average £1,180 a year on a standard tariff (there are regional variations – and some pay as much as £1,220), in comparison, here are our ESTIMATED prices you’d pay for fixing (always compare to find your own).

- Extra Energy – fixed till 31 October 2015 - £991/year; early exit fee £25/fuel (£50 dual fuel) - EDF Blue+ price promise– fixed till 31 March 2016 - £1,040/year; no early exit fees.- EDF Blue+ price freeeeze (that’s not a typo) - 31 May 2018 - £1,210/year; no early exit fees.

Yet your exact winner depends on usage and location, so plug in your details into an Ofgem Confidence Code approved comparison site; or for these exact fixes, Martin’s Top Pick Fixes Comparison.

Quick Switching Tips

- Moving house? You can usually take a fix with you. All those listed above are portable.

- Electricity-only? Those with no gas can still get all the tariffs above, following the same method.

- Prepayment meter? You're not locked to one provider. While the market's less competitive, some may be able to save £150/year. Though check if you can move off prepay to a normal billed meter for free.

- Pay by monthly direct debit – up to £90/year discount.Here your annual usage is estimated and divided by 12, so ensure you do regular meter readings to keep it accurate or you could build up a debt, or be overpaying.

There are HUGE differences in service.

I get swamped by energy complaints, yet as my recent poll of 6,800 shows, service levels (over the last six months) vary enormously. If you're not happy - switch. Here are the ratings:

1.Ovo Energy: 82% great, 4% poor2. Ebico: 81% great, 3% poor3. EDF: 48% great, 16% poor4. M&S Energy: 46% great, 13% poor5. E.on: 43% great, 17% poor6. SSE (incl Atlantic): 42% great, 18% poor7. First Utility: 40% great, 36% poor8. British Gas: 35% great, 29% poor9. Scottish Power: 18% great, 55% poor10. Npower: 9% great, 71% poor

What's going to happen to prices?

Most industry experts predict over the next five years that energy prices could rise – some say by up to 50%. However, in the short-term this is likely to be the first winter in five years without hikes – as many of the big providers have freezes on and there’s huge political pressure from all sides not to put prices up.

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