I’ve been on the Bulb smart tariff for just shy of 1 year. I thought people might find it useful to hear how I’ve got on. Firstly, my usage profile:
Three bed semi-detached.
Gas hob, heating, and hot water. Electric oven.
EV taking about 1.2MWh per year over night.
No solar. No battery storage.
4.2MWh total usage, split 41.9% day, 6.3% peak, 51.8% night.
2x occupants with standard day-working schedule. We shifted what usage we could out of the peak time, which basically meant no laundry (not that we did that at peak times anyway) and limiting use of the oven. This latter point was the most stressful in terms of quality of life changes - we’d often get in from work and want to start cooking straight away so we’d end up using the oven at peak time.
Admin wise, I’ve had little trouble with Bulb during the beta test. I’ve always received 3-rate bills at the expected time. I have daily meter readings showing up in my account, and recently the usage graph has also started to show the split daily usage. I understand quite a lot of people haven’t had this experience, which is a shame. The smart tariff is advertised as a beta trial, but that implies it’s been through heavy internal and alpha testing stages already. A beta product ought to be mostly working and free of all the biggest bugs. That doesn’t seem to be the case. The communication is poor as well, it’s difficult to contact anyone in the smart team directly which I would have thought was essential for users on a beta trial filing bug reports. First line customer support often don’t even know the tariff/trial exists. But once the account it setup properly it does work ok.
In terms of cost, with the above usage over 12 months I’ve averaged 11.67p per kWh including VAT, which has saved me £83.61 compared to what I would have paid on the Bulb single rate for my area. That’s a decent saving, and dare I say it one that is enabled by having a smart meter. However, compared to traditional Economy 7 rates for my area, I would have averaged 12.03p per kWh and still saved £68.44, and so the smart tariff doesn’t seem to offer much over a traditional E7 tariff which would have had the quality of life advantage of no peak rate.
With another supplier the best rate I can achieve for my area is 11.404p per kWh, which you’ll notice is a little cheaper than the best I’ve achieved so far with time shifting. And that’s also a single rate tariff offering a quality of life improvement over worrying about peak rates. I stand to save over £70 compared to Bulb’s single rate, so my choice is to either switch away or continue on the smart tariff with time shifting. My Bulb account has now been moved back to single rate, and my switch away will complete in a couple of weeks.
I’ve also started a switch for my gas account. I’ll soon have electric and gas with two different companies for the first time ever. With Bulb’s current eye watering gas price I can save over £100 by switching gas alone.
Those combined savings are at a level I can’t turn down. Bulb need to become much more competitive, I can’t imagine I’m the only one leaving especially with their current customer service problems. When the big six have tariffs that are cheaper than Bulb, never mind the other small suppliers, it’s obvious there’s something wrong somewhere. And I have to say it’ll be nice to be back on a single rate again, especially knowing I’m still paying a lower rate than I ever achieved with best-effort time shifting. The multi-rate experiment has been interesting but I don’t think I’ll be trying it again until the whole DCC/billing infrastructure is far more robust, and ideally I would need solar/battery/V2G to help avoid the peak rates. The next few years are going to be interesting.
Well, since in just over a week I’ll no longer be a customer of Bulb (note that’s customer, not “member”) I guess this will be my last post on here. Thanks for all the interesting chat, it’s been emotional