Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve updated our Help Centre to answer your frequently asked questions.

Feel free to drop a question on ‘Help and Support’. But please remember that this is a public forum, so don’t add your personal details (name, address or account details).

If you need to discuss your account details, please see this Help Article.

Emergencies I Contact Us I Join Bulb

Previous Supplier & Exit fees
Why is my old supplier still charging me?
Do I need to tell my old supplier before I switch?
When will I get my final bill from my old supplier?
What about exit fees from my current supplier?
What happens to credit or debit with my old supplier?
Should I cancel my Direct Debit with my old supplier?

The Switch
The A-Z of your energy switch
Can I switch to Bulb with a smart meter?
How do smart prepayment meters work at Bulb?
Can I sign up multiple properties?
How do I leave Bulb?
Can I switch when I have debt on my prepayment meter?
What do the prepayment meter errors mean?
How do I read my prepayment meter?
What should I do if my prepayment credit is about to run out?
What should I do If I’ve lost my electricity key or gas card?
Why has my previous supplier objected to my switch to Bulb?
How do I start using my Bulb prepayment key or card?
What to do if my old supplier’s final reads don’t match Bulb’s opening readings?
How long does it take to switch?
Can I pick the date when my monthly payment comes out?

About Bulb
How can I get in touch with Bulb?
How can I get a quote for a business?
Does Bulb offer a dual fuel discount?
Can I get the Warm Home Discount?
My gas is supplied by an independent gas transporter (IGT), what does this mean?
How is Bulb regulated by OFGEM?

Referral Link
Can I use my referral credit to pay for my energy?
How do I refer a friend?
I’ve been referred by a friend how will I get my credit?
When will the referral credit appear in my account?
Will Bulb pay my exit fees if I also have a referral credit?

Moving Home
What should I do if I’m moving out of or into a home with prepayment meters?
What to do if I’m moving into a new home?
What should I do if I’m moving out?

Statements and Payments
How can I change my payments?
How much can I top up my prepayment meter?
Why didn’t my gas card work when I topped up after a long wait?
Why does my bill look higher than usual?
How are estimated readings calculated?
How do payments and statements work?
How can I withdraw credit from my account?
Can I change or add a second name to my account?
Can I get paper statements?

Meters
When will Bulb roll out smart meters?
Can I exchange my prepayment meter?
Can I get an Economy 7 meter fitted?
What should I do if I have an unusual electricity meter?
Why have you asked for a photo of my meter?
What are my off-peak hours for economy 7?
Engineers visiting your home will carry an ID
How do I activate my emergency credit?
How do I read my meter?
Can I change to or from an Economy 7 meter?
What is a supply point number?
What is a meter serial number?

Your Bulb Account
How do I sign into my Bulb Account?
I can’t log in to my Bulb Account
What should I do if the account holder has passed away?

Emergencies
What if I have a gas leak?
What if I have a power cut?
What should I do in case of emergency?

Other
Where can I find my Bulb account number?
Where can I update my personal information?
What support does Bulb offer to vulnerable members?
Can I get help to read my meters?
What should I do if I’m having trouble paying?
How can I make a complaint?
Can I be added to the Priority Service Register?
Is there a Bulb app?

Thanks for this @“Eleanor at Bulb” - I would add a bit somewhere saying ‘Please remember that this is a public community forum and it is not advisable to post personal details (such as name, address, account details) here. If you need to contact Bulb regarding your account, please see our ‘How to contact Bulb’ help article at https://help.bulb.co.uk/hc/en-us/articles/115001240291-How-can-I-get-in-touch-with-Bulb- which lists our telephone number and opening hours’.

(If you could also change the topic title from ‘Frquently Asked Quetions’ to ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, my left twitching eyelid would really appreciate it)

@RichyB

I fully endorse your first paragraph

Great feedback @RichyB and @Allanr. I’m changing now :slight_smile:

There seems to be an increasing amount of questions lately about estimation of future use and recommending increasing monthly contributions towards energy usage, and criticism and confusion how Bulb has calculates the recommendation. Maybe you could provide information which factors Bulb takes into account and how it uses this information to calculate a recommendation?

@JustSsavvy

Personally I don’'t have a problem in working out my own annual cost based on my previous 12 months energy usage (in kWh) and what my monthly direct debit payment should be (I keep a spreadsheet which does the necessary calculations).

However I fully support your suggestion to help those customers who don’t wish to go to the bother of having a spreadsheet.

@JustSsavvy

Personally I don’'t have a problem in working out my own annual cost based on my previous 12 months energy usage (in kWh) and what my monthly direct debit payment should be (I keep a spreadsheet which does the necessary calculations).

However I fully support your suggestion to help those customers who don’t wish to go to the bother of having a spreadsheet.

There will be many that are first time users, those young excited lot that move into their first home etc. While other will need just that little extra information to help understand what is happening behind the scenes.

I keep regular note of meter readings normally on a monthly basis and have info going back a good few years, like @Allanr I have no issue calculating my usage & Cost, but obviously there seems to be a need for a little extra help for some customers.

There seems to be an increasing amount of questions lately about estimation of future use and recommending increasing monthly contributions towards energy usage, and criticism and confusion how Bulb has calculates the recommendation. Maybe you could provide information which factors Bulb takes into account and how it uses this information to calculate a recommendation?

Great question @JustSsavvy and sorry for any confusion. There are quite a few different factors that go into these calculations, depending on your personal situation. Let’s see if we can cover the most common ones here.

First, let’s look at the way estimates are made and refined.

Your initial estimate
When you sign up to Bulb, we ask you a few basic questions. What’s your postcode? Do you live in a flat or a house? How many bedrooms do you have? This helps us estimate your yearly energy usage, which we then divide into 12 equal payments.

There is an option to refine this quote yourself to increase the accuracy. Not everyone takes that step. We’re doing some work at Bulb now, to see how we can make that step quicker and more useful for people when they’re signing up.

How we refine your estimate
To help increase the accuracy of your payments, we refine your quote using information supplied by a trusted third party, and, ideally, by you.

In the UK, the result of every gas and electricity meter reading for every property is shared with a regulated third party. They provide us, at Bulb, with two approved pieces of information:

EAC: the Estimated Annual Consumption of electricity at your chosen property
AQ: the Annual Quantity of gas used at your chosen property

We use these detailed figures, and the meter readings you provide over time, to refine our initial estimate.

If the more accurate (and in the case of your supplied meter readings, more up-to-date) information we’ve received means that you’re not paying enough to cover your use, we’ll ask you to increase your payments to avoid building up debt over time.

Payment reviews
We’ll send a ‘payment review’ email to members whose usage is £5 more than their monthly payments. We do this to avoid building up debt and getting a bigger bill further down the line. We provide the opportunity for members to stop the payment increase, or to change their monthly payments themselves via the Bulb Account.

Increasing your payments even though you’re in credit
This is the one that can be confusing.

At Bulb your payments stay the same throughout the year.

This means you build up credit over the summer and use it during the winter when you’re using more energy.

Just before winter, your account should have enough credit to see you through the colder months. And your payments should be high enough to ensure you start building up credit again in the spring.

As our tariff is variable, our prices can go up and down according to the true cost of energy. In September this year, the wholesale cost of energy increased. As a result, we had to increase our prices too. This means, even accounts in credit may have to increase their payments to ensure they have enough additional credit in their account to cover the colder months this time next year.

@Eleanor at Bulb

Thanks for the explanation.

I haven’t been in the situation where I have received an email requesting my DD be increased whilst still in credit.

However at long last I saw an email to another Bulb customer which leads me think there is something amiss with the algorithm being used to work out the DD increase. It is this which possibly is causing concern to some Bulb customers forcing them to consider their options to switch to another supplier.

I have paraphrased the details in the email:

Suggest you increase DD to £121 per month

Average usage £114 per month

Current Monthly Payment £100 per month

Current credit £144

If you continue with your current payment you will be i£16 in debit this time next year)

If I use a simple calculation approach:

Cost of usage in 12 months = £114 * 12 = £1368

Cost over 12 months after taking into account the credit of £144 = £1224

or £1224/12= £102 per month.

On this basis the DD should be increased to £102 rather than £121 suggested by Bulb.

I may have oversimplified the calculation due to the one month in advance requirement? But this simplification may result in more satisfied customers?

Your initial estimate.. There is an option to refine this quote yourself to increase the accuracy. Not everyone takes that step. We’re doing some work at Bulb now, to see how we can make that step quicker and more useful for people when they’re signing up.

Personally, I’d like it straight after asking for the postcode you get the option [House], [Flat] [I know my actual annual usage in kWh or £] - why make people go through selecting the very rough building details if they already have the more accurate information to hand?

How we refine your estimate.. In the UK, the result of every gas and electricity meter reading for every property is shared with a regulated third party. They provide us, at Bulb, with two approved pieces of information:

EAC: the Estimated Annual Consumption of electricity at your chosen property
AQ: the Annual Quantity of gas used at your chosen property

Once you’ve received this information, would it be possible to communicate this to customers. ‘Thanks for switching - just to let you know, the regulators have provided us with historical annual usage of your property and because of this we recommend changing your payments to £xx per month based on the fact we previous calculated electrical usage on XXX kWh/py and historical this building has used XXX kWh/py and gas… You are free to ignore this recommendation if you wish (for example, if you have just moved in and have different usage from the previous occupiers) and we’ll get in touch in the future if there is a problem’.

Thanks both.

@Eleanor at Bulb

On this basis the DD should be increased to £102 rather than £121 suggested by Bulb.

@Allanr here’s the calculation we use:

R = (A + (W - C)) / 12

R = Recommended payment amount
A = Annual usage
C = Current credit
W = Winter buffer (2 x the average monthly payment)

So in the example you gave above, we start with the annual usage which is £1368 (£114 x12 ).

The winter buffer is £128 (£114 x 2).

We then take away the account credit from winter buffer which would leave £84.

Then we add the £84 to the £1368 which leave us with £1452 as an annual payment.

To get the recommended monthly payment, we divide by 12.

This leaves the recommended payment amount to be £121.

If the winter buffer is not added into the equation, by about April time the account is left with a debit.

Too much maths for me on a Friday afternoon :wink:

@RichyB we would never ignore a recommendation. I’ve passed it over to our communications team to have a think about.

Technically, this is something we could do.

But ideally, we want meter readings each month which would mean that we don’t need to use estimates at all.

@Eleanor at Bulb

Thanks for the explanation.

No winding down on a Friday afternoon still some more maths.

In essence the equation R = (A + (W - C)) / 12

can be simplified to

R = ((B * 14) - C)/12)

Where B = average monthly usage and C = Credit

Using the same example B = £114 and C = 144 and the reason for 14 in the equation is that you require 2 months winter buffer.

R = ((114 * 14) - 144)/12) or

R = (1596 -144) /12 = £121

Whilst I can see a reason for winter a buffer it does mean that if the DD was increased to the suggested amount of £121 then this time next year the account would be in credit by £252.

I assumed having a DD based on Annual usage divided by 12 would mean that during the summer the account would go into credit and then during the winter months the credit would be eaten into but still be sufficient to pay the monthly statement.so at the end of the winter period there would be a neutral balance (i.e no debit or credit).

Obviously someone who switches to Bulb during the winter will in probability go into a debit situation and in these situation it would be reasonable to request an increase in the DD

I wonder if consideration should be given to a rethink of the buffer perhaps to 0.5 the monthly usage?

I see a problem with this formula, in that it will be suggesting a revised amount each month given that your usage and thus credit often fluctuates throughout the year. It will likely be suggesting higher payments as winter progresses and lower payments in summer as you build credit back.

I would prefer a constant payment throughout the year, personally I refer back to my past statement / balance to see if I am above / below that point and check the estimated annual amount and take the suggestion under advisement which I now understand why it is suggesting higher than I expect.

Regardless of that fluctuating problem I also think two months extra buffer is too much, I thought you only required one months bill in advance at signup so the 14 should perhaps be reduced to 13? This may make the suggestions more palatable.

Phillip_PAL

Eleanor in her earlier response mentioned Bulb would only send a suggested DD increase email if the average monthly usage is more than £5 greater than the current DD payment. This to some extent should minimise revised monthly amounts,

I concur with your suggestion I think the cause of the concerns expressed by customers on a regular basis on this forum is that the buffer of two months is set too high.

Having a winter buffer isn’t something I noticed with my previous suppliers (2 of the big six) they just divided my estimated annual costs by 12 to arrive at my direct debit amount. Their philosophy was that some months I would be in credit and other months in debit, I seem to recollect if your debit was over a certain limit you would be asked to pay off this amount, this never happened to me.

@“Eleanor at Bulb”

not too sure about that formula, it seems to inadvertently include additional factors that it shouldn’t. If we review the winter buffer payment it includes 2 months of the Average Monthly Charged, and that estimated average will include the Daily Standard Charge and all units charged in 1 year, however, Daily Standing Charges are only charged annually at 365 days but the 2 month winter buffer would add (est.) 60 days for each fuel. Customers do not spent 100% of their fuel (duel or single) on heating their homes, it is estimated that customers will spend 53% of the fuel to heat their homes. Source 1 and Source 2

There should be a revision of your formula to adjust for the usage of fuel to heat the home: R = (A + (((A-S)*0.53) / 12) * 2 - C) / 12

If we take your example and assuming that the customer is duel fuel, we would get as follows:

Total Daily Standing Charge (S): £179.29 ( 0.2456 * 365 *2)

Estimated Annual Charged (A): £1368 (£114 * 12)

Total Fuel Charged (tU): £1188.71 (£1368.00 - £179.29)

Total Fuel to Heat Home (hU): £630.02 (£1188.71 * 53%)

Winter Buffer (W): £105.00 (630.02 / 12 * 2)

Credit ©: £144.00

Applying the above info to the adjusted formula a customer would be contributing less but proportionate to the increase of assumed usage towards heating a customers home.

R = (1368 + (((1368-179.29)*0.53) / 12) * 2 - 144) / 12

R = (1368 + ((1188.71*0.53) / 12) * 2 - 144) / 12

R = (1368 + (630.02 / 12) * 2 - 144) / 12

R = (1368 + (105.00 - 144) / 12

R = (1368 + (-39) / 12

R = 1329 / 12

R = 110.75

A customer would now b paying an additional £10.75, compared to the £21.00 recommended by your formula, while a modest difference, it is significant over a year increase. e.g

your recommendation would be (121 * 12) £1452 a year while the adjusted formula would be (110.75 * 12) £1329 that is a £123.00 of difference, with customers paying less compared to your formula, but paying a more proportionate amount towards assumed energy increases over the winter period based on the estimated annual consumption of fuel.

Obviously my adjusted formula takes a few assumption, however, I would hope this sparks a conversation to review the factors and which of those factors are assumed, with an approach to have a more prorogation balanced recommendation.

Thanks for running us through the maths @JustSsavvy.

You’re right that heating is a big part of an energy bill and so the majority of your annual costs are accumulated during the winter.

But we base the 2 months winter buffer on the average profile curve of a member. This means the buffer is an average of the total usage throughout the year, not just heating usage during winter.

I’m going to pass on your comments to our energy specialists who deal with these calculations. It will certainly get some discussion going. Thank you!

I’ve today received the ‘we need to increase your payments’ email and the DD increased automatically.

Although I don’t recall being in receipt of a recommendation email previously I could be mistaken!

The overall email I found to be well structured and informative. However I have noticed a further flaw in the figures enclosed which are inflating the recommended payment figure which is not quite using the formula as expected R = (A + (W - C)) / 12.

(Note - I fully support the revised calculation supplied by @JustSsavvy above, but ignore that issue for now…)

The issue I have is specifically where W = Winter buffer (2 x the average monthly payment). It appears @“Eleanor at Bulb” that Bulb are not using average payment but twice the payment that bulb suggests you pay (which icludes the extra payments to reach the increased buffer), thereby overshooting more than the two months average usage required to reach.

Here is example using my email etc. On my account and tariff page is shown Estimated Annual Cost £1642.62. This is reasonable based on usage with new rates and nicely agrees with the email. However on the payments and statements page it shows Average monthly usage £157.80. But this is incorrect as 1642.62 / 12 = £136.89. I have suspected this to be too high before.

Now to the email:

Based on your recent meter reading, your energy costs more than expected. To cover this, we need to increase your payments from £115 to £156 a month.

We’ll do this automatically on 26 th November, 2018.

How we’ve calculated this
Using the information we have about your home, we think your energy will cost £1643 over the next 12 months. And you need to end up with two month’s credit (£312) at this point next year to cover the cold winter months. You already have £92 of credit, so your payments should be £156 a month to keep your balance healthy.

Notice that the winter buffer highlighted is £312 (= 156 * 2) which is the suggested increased payment. It should be £274 (137 * 2).

Applying your formula R = (A + (W - C)) / 12. Using estimated average of 137 for W of 274 is thus:

(1643 + (274 - 92)) / 12 = (1643 + 182) / 12 = 1825 / 12 = £152.

There thus appears to be some pre calculation of the average monthly payment which includes the increase required to attain the winter buffer at the end. The supplied calculation above only matches if the revised DD figure of £156 Is used.

For my example this only overshoots by £48 on top of (in my opinion the excessive 2 months buffer) but I wonder if those with less credit and requiring further increase to attain the required level does this hidden calculation inflate the increase required yet further rather than the true monthly average usage estimated?

Personally I have taken action by revising my payment slightly to a more modest £5 increase to £120 super easily via the website and will review monthly as winter progresses. As I have also recently switched my FIT payments from my solar panels to Bulb this will shortly be allocated directly to my bulb account. This along with the expectation I will be using slightly less units overall this next 12 months should keep the account ticking along ticketyboo.

Doh! I have just read my missive above and noticed that

W = Winter buffer (2 x the average monthly payment)

Does in fact say ‘monthly payment’ and not ‘monthly usage’ which is how I was blindly reading it.

Does this invalidate my issue? Sort of.

Instead can I suggest W is altered to be based on monthly usage?

@Phillip_PAL

If you think the information in your previous posting is incorrect, you can edit the post by clicking on the cog-wheel against the post and selecting Edit.

Hi @Phillip_PAL

I’m glad the Community are keeping us on our toes.

Yes, the Winter Buffer is 2 x the average monthly payment.

@JustSsavvy’s comments have been forwarded to our team of energy specialists to consider.

It’s good to hear that you find the emails informative. Communicating clearly with our members is very important. If you ever think there’s information missing, or we can add something that would be useful to know, please get in touch.

Great to hear that you’ve also brought your FIT payments over to Bulb too. We’d love to hear about your experience of using FIT with Bulb. Are we the first supplier that you’ve received FIT payments from?