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Energy FAQs: meters and supply

uSwitch has gathered some of the most frequently asked questions about home energy and gas and electricity meters and supply, and pulled them into this handy guide.

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What to do when my electricity goes off

When your power goes out it is most likely to be the result of two possible issues:

  1. The trip switch has turned itself off - The trip switch in your fuse box will turn off automatically to protect your home in response to a faulty appliance. Look to see if you can find the faulty appliance, and turn the trip switch back on. If you're unsure, you should call an electrician. Read our guide on what to do and who to call in the case of a power outage.
  2. Network failure - Check if your neighbours' electricity has gone out. If it has, then it's a fault with the power network. If the electricity is fine on the rest of your street, then it's probably a fault in your home. You can contact your Local Distribution Company to find out what the issue is and how long it will be until you can get power.

How do I top up my electricity meter?

When you have a prepayment electricity meter, topping up your electricity meter works similarly to topping up your pay-as-you-go mobile phone. There are a few different ways to top up your electricity meter:

  1. Smartcard
  2. Token
  3. Key
  4. Your supplier’s mobile app

If you have a smartcard, token or key then you would take it to a recognised PayPoint or Payzone shop or at any Post Office to top up. Then you put the smartcard, token or key into your electric meter at home.

Some suppliers are now allowing you to top up your electricity online, via text, mobile app or over the phone.

Learn more about pay-as-you-go energy in our guide to prepayment meters.

UK electricity - where does it come from?

Electricity in the UK is generated from four main power sources:

  • Gas
  • Coal
  • Nuclear
  • Renewables

A growing proportion of the UK's electricity supply is being generated with renewable energy, but gas provides the largest proportion.

Electricity from coal-fired power stations and nuclear power plants are gradually declining, but both of them still provide a significant proportion of all of the UK's electricity.

Learn more in our guide to where household energy comes from.

What is my electricity meter number?

Your MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) is a unique identifying number for the electricity meter at your property. It might be useful to know in case you need to identify your electricity meter.

Your energy supplier might refer to your MPAN as a "Supply Number" or "S" number, and it can be found on your electricity bill.

If you can't locate your "S" number, you should contact your current electricity supplier, and they will be able to tell you the number.

Where is my nearest electricity top up shop?

You can top up your electricity at any shop with a 'Payzone' or 'PayPoint' sign in the window or at the post office.

  • You can find your nearest Payzone shop by entering your postcode on their website.
  • You can find your nearest PayPoint shop here.
  • Some energy suppliers allow you to top up your electricity online, over the phone, by text or through an app, so check with your provider before making a trip to the shops. Learn more about prepaid electricity.

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    Are electricity coin meters legal?

    Very few electricity meters still take coins, but they are legal. If you have one you might need to get it adjusted every now and again to allow it to accept coins as they get modified.

    In 2017, new £1 coins were introduced, which are slightly bigger than the older version and it's quite likely that many electricity meters would not recognise them.

    What to do when there's an electricity disconnection

    Although it's very uncommon for gas and electricity providers to disconnect you from their energy supply, it does occasionally happen.

    You should have received a written notice at least 28 days in advance of the electricity disconnection from your energy supplier. On top of this, your energy provider is legally required to send you a written disconnection notice, seven days before the disconnection.

    For those with health problems or serious financial difficulties there are usually measures in place to prevent disconnection from happening. You can find more information in our guide to energy debt.

    What is the emergency number for electricity outage?

    If you have a power outage in your area you can call the Local Distribution Company for your region.

    EMERGENCY ONLY Contact details for all district network operators

    Eastern England


    Emergency: 0800 783 8838
    @UKPowerNetworks

    East Midlands


    Emergency: 0800 6783 105
    @wpduk

    Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire


    Emergency: 0800 001 5400
    @SPEnergyNetwork

    West Midlands


    Emergency: 0800 6783 105
    @wpduk

    North East England


    Emergency: 0800 668 877
    @Northpowergrid

    North West England


    Emergency: 0800 195 4141
    @ElectricityNW

    North Scotland


    Emergency: 0800 300 999
    @hydroPD

    Central and Southern Scotland


    Emergency: 0800 092 9290
    @SPEnergyNetwork

    South East England


    Emergency: 0800 783 8666
    @UKPowerNetworks

    Southern England


    Emergency: 0800 072 7282
    @southernelecPD

    South Wales


    Emergency: 0800 6783 105
    @wpduk

    South West England


    Emergency: 0800 6783 105
    @wpduk

    Yorkshire


    Emergency: 0800 375 675
    @Northpowergrid
    powercuts map
    Hover over Click the map to see a larger version. (Map provided by the Energy Networks Association)

How do I arrange a new connection for electricity?

If you're setting up a new business premises or developing property you may need to arrange for a new electricity connection.

UK electricity connections are delivered to your premises by Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). These DNOs deliver electricity in large regions across the UK, so you don't get to choose your DNO. You can find who your nearest distributor is using this map and get in touch with them to arrange a new connection for electricity in your new premises.

If you are simply looking to switch your electricity supplier, then you can start that now by comparing deals with uSwitch.

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Why is my electricity not working?

There could be a few reasons why your electricity is not working:

  1. Disconnected by the supplier for failing to pay the bills - Make sure that your energy bills have been fully paid. You should have received written notice 28 days prior to being disconnected. You will also have received another written notice 7 days prior. It's very uncommon, but it can happen, so make sure you've not missed the letters in the post.
  2. Faulty appliance - Your electricity for the entire property may switch off because of one faulty appliance. This is because your fuse box has a trip switch that automatically turns off everything in the event that there is a danger of the circuit overheating and possibly causing an electrical fire. This is likely to be the case if your home is the only one in your neighbourhood without electricity. You can attempt to fix the issue yourself by locating the faulty electrical appliance and unplugging it, but if you're not sure, or if that still doesn’t work, you should call up an electrician.
  3. Network power outage - There are a number of reasons why a network power outage might happen. It might be an issue with the Local Distribution Company or the result of extreme weather. If you see that your neighbours are also having power issues, then it is likely due to a network power outage.

How do I order an electricity reconnection?

If your new home doesn't have electricity or you have recently set up a business or property development that needs the electricity reconnected, then you need to contact your region's Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

The electricity distributor will give you a quote for the work required. Sometimes they will need access to neighbouring properties or to close a road to do some work to get the property's electricity reconnected. Some of the work they quote you might be able to be done by an electrician. This work is known as 'contestable' work. Ask your electricity distributor to break down the cost into contestable and non-contestable work. If you feel you are being charged too high for the contestable work, speak to local electricians and compare quotes to get the best price.

How to find nearest electricity top up point

If you have an electricity prepayment meter, then you will need to top up on a fairly regular basis. You can do this at any shop with a 'Payzone' or 'PayPoint' sign in the window or at any post office.

Some prepayment electricity suppliers now let you top up online or over the phone, so check with your energy provide to see what your prepayment options are.

Why is there an electricity disruption?

An electricity disruption, also known as a power cut, power outage, blackouts or power failures usually occur when an area is cut off from its electricity source. They can happen for a number of reasons, including network faults and damage caused by extreme weather.

If there is a disruption in your electricity but the rest of your area's power seems fine then it could be due to a faulty appliance in your home. The trip switch in your fuse box will turn itself off automatically in the event that there is danger posed by a faulty appliance.

Call an electrician to resolve the issue if you're unsure or can't spot the faulty appliance immediately. See our guide on what to do in the event of an electricity disruption.

Where is my electricity meter located?

Your electricity meter will be located somewhere nearby and fairly easy to access. In some homes, it will be located in the cupboard under the stairs, or even on the outside of the property to the side or at the back. In some homes it will be in a cupboard in the laundry room.

If you live in an apartment building, then you might find your electricity meter located somewhere in the building, but usually on the same floor, possibly down the hallway from your flat. If you go looking for your electricity meter you should find it within a few minutes.

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