Smart tariff review

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 :laughing:

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You will be missed, hope all goes well in your switch?

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So Bulb has now lost two of the customers (not members) that it should most want to keep for development purposes (other one being @mowcius)

'Bye @Hooloovoo, the forum loses all its appeal if you’re not contributing.

FYI - It’s much less frustrating elsewhere.

The end of an era! Good luck with the switch.

Thanks for the comprehensive experience of the smart tariff. I have been thinking of trying it but it is not very appealing when you consider octopus go is offering 5p night rate and a cheaper day rate than bulb. However, to move onto this tariff you first need to go on an interim tariff until they can read your smart meter a half hour intervals. This tariff is not as good as my present with bulb. This means you could be tied to the interim tariff for some time until this smart meter chaos is sorted between suppliers.
What I really want is to stay with Bulb and them to offer a competitive tariff for EV owners like myself.
How about a decent EV tariff Bulb??

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Sorry to see you go as I always liked reading your down to earth and helpful replies. Good luck with your new suppliers and I think I’ll start looking about to see what’s out there. All the best.

Thanks for all the kind comments.

It turns out I’m going to be a Bulb customer for longer than I expected.

Symbio have said I can’t switch to them because I have a smart meter. Bizarre. They keep insisting that they can’t read it yet and they are currently undergoing security authorisation to be completed in January 2020. I’ve tried to explain to them twice that I know they can’t read the meter, and that’s fine, I’m happy for it to be a dumb meter with me manually submitting readings, but they just keep repeating they can’t read smart meters. I mean FFS there’s people on this community that have come off the Bulb smart tariff and switched to Symbio, so they already have smart meters in dumb mode on their systems! At least they reply within a day unlike Bulb.

Apparently it’s not much less frustrating elsewhere after all.

Not sure what to do now. I might end up back on the smart tariff at this rate, since it does work out cheaper over all. No other supplier can hit an average 11.5p per kWh as far as I can see in my area. My gas switch to So Energy is still continuing.

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Sad news that you can’t join me over at Symbio. It’s a wild party of warm rooms, hot cups of tea and bright lighting, all for less per unit than Bulb charge off-peak either side of the whacking great penalty rate between 4-7pm.

I’m now only paying more between midnight and 7am, 11.5p instead of 8p. But that’s more than wiped out by the lower rates for the rest of the day. I don’t have an energy-guzzling EV though, which would be the only way to (possibly) make Bulb’s Smart tariff make any sense.

We spent 3 months playing silly games around the clock, with almost blackouts between 4-7pm but still would have paid more. Thankfully, Bulb don’t seem to know any other part of their body from their elbow and billed us at the standard price on our final bill though.

My smart meter is still in Bulb’s Smart mode though, still displaying the countdowns to the rate switches. I’m ignoring it, just giving the total reading to Symbio and all is hopefully well.

Just for closure, should anyone still be reading or interested, I’m no longer moving my electric supply away from Bulb and I’m officially back on the smart tariff as of today. The cheapest single rate tariff for me is green.energy on the Oak tariff, but the unit rate is only a little cheaper than Bulb, most of the saving comes from a lower 15p standing charge. With Symbio not wanting me as a customer, the average rate I achieve on the Bulb smart tariff is by far the cheapest I can get.

To give some balance to the reports of bad customer service, I have to say that both Will and Charlie (the smart team lead) have been excellent over the last two weeks while I’ve messed them about moving off the beta trial and then back on again.

Sorry to say you’re all going to have to suffer my sarcasm on here a bit longer now. Blame Symbio! :upside_down_face:

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I like Bulb. I’d like them to succeed. I’ve just whipped out my spreadsheet and realise I could save £264 a year by splitting gas and leccy elsewhere. I’d really like to see a statement from the directors telling us how they’re going to get over the current service issues and how they see the future. It might sway me to stay.

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You’re probably quite a high user, but lets say on average you could save £150 by switching. Bulb have over 1 million customers, so that’s £150 million they are charging MORE than the cheapest carrier over the next 12 months.
I’m sure they will drop prices, but this delay is taking advantage of customer loyalty?

I am a high user and also have my FIT payments handled by Bulb. I’ve already started the process of moving my FITs away. I also have £600 in credit. I would say I’m a good ‘member’ of Bulb.

Well I can’t wait any longer for a price drop. I’ve started the move of my gas to So Energy which will save me £157 alone. I’ll look at the leccy later. Fit payments will shortly be live with another supplier. I can’t see or hear any evidence Bulb is listening to its LOYAL MEMBERS. I’ve recommended a number of people who will no doubt also vote with their feet. The recommedation scheme works two ways! I would suggest Bulb hire a good reputation/brand specialist.

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Just started the switch of electricity which will save me £79. That’s a total of £236 saving for the next 12 months based on current rates for both fuels.

Out of interest, who have you gone to for the leccy?

Symbio are cheapest but their customer service doesn’t look too good so I went with Green, a new startup In Newcastle upon Tyne. Good Trustpilot reviews and price.

Just popping back to see whether I’ve missed out on any price cuts (!).

I moved to Symbio over a month ago. I’m always a bit wary of online ratings, I prefer to judge from my own experience. I’ve had one encounter with their customer service, which was when I phoned them when they introduced a 5% price cut for new customers on Black Friday. I thought I was being a bit cheeky asking if they’d do this deal for an existing customer. I was pleasantly surprised that they rang back exactly when promised, twice, while they made a decision, then gave me the discount.

I really can’t fault Symbio based on my experience. We’re 100% electric, as mains gas doesn’t exist round here. We should save well over £200 as a result of switching away from Bulb’s liar Vari-Fair deal (it only ever varies upwards and it’s not fair).

I’ve learnt to be far more cynical about companies that go on about how wonderful they are - never trust anyone who goes on far too much about how honest they are! Bulb is NOT some hippy cooperative as they like to portray - it’s a capitalist profit-seeking company just like any other. You are not members you’re customers or, it would seem, just there for them to extract as much money as possible from.

One thing with Symbio which may be a positive for many (including me), possibly a negative for some, is that they charge month-by-month. The direct debit is totally variable - you pay per month for that month’s usage, if you use lots of power then you pay more. I prefer this, it also means that they’re not sitting on my money just in case they ever go bust. Some with a tight monthly budget may find this to be a negative though.

Beware that Symbio are currently not allowing signups from people with smart meters. This is a temporary situation, it should be resolved soon.

Honestly, do not worry about switching away from a debt-fueled startup company with poor customer reviews to any other! They pretty much all have poor overall reviews, mainly as people are much more likely to review a company they’ve had a bad experience with.

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Thanks for keeping us updated on this @IveGotThePower, really useful. I’ve had my first gas bill from So Energy this weekend. Paying about three quarters of what Bulb would be charging me with their ridiculous gas unit rate. Still happy with Bulb handling my electric, for now.

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Blockquote[quote=“Hooloovoo, post:19, topic:64354”]
Still happy with Bulb handling my electric, for now.
[/quote]

Why?!? You could save a big chunk of your money by moving elsewhere, and it would be no more hassle as you already have two separate suppliers.

It’s quite weird that the concept of saving by getting gas and leccy from one company seems to be dead and buried now. I only spotted Symbio as we don’t have gas at this house, not sure I’d have even looked at separate suppliers when we are at our previous house.

Because as explained previously, the only supplier even matching what I can achieve on the Bulb smart tariff, never mind being any cheaper, is Symbio and they don’t want me as a customer (yet).

Plus as we go through winter and my EV become less efficient, I charge it more using a greater percentage of off-peak electricity, and will likely achieve an average rate better than Symbio. I’ll review again in Spring / early Summer.

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