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Utilities deals 2013
The utilities sector has changed a lot in the past few decades, and if you've lived through that change it can be hard to keep up. The classic three mains supplies of gas, electricity and water have effectively been joined by new media-based utilities, from television services to telephone, Internet and, more recently, high-speed broadband via copper or fibre optic cables.
Water is the least flexible of all the utilities, and you usually won't be able to do much about who supplies you or what they charge, other than making sure you're efficient in your choice of washing machine, dishwasher, and bathroom fittings (look for low-flow showers if you want to cut down on the amount of water you use).
How can you save money on your utilities?
If you're searching HotDeals.co.uk for ways to reduce your water bills, take a look at our DIY category and think of how you could improve your bathroom to make it more efficient. For the other utilities, the offers, discounts and voucher codes that are available to you should be more directly related to the utility itself - and here are a few examples of what you might want to look out for.
At HotDeals.co.uk we have separate categories for discounts and offers that apply specifically to either gas or electricity, so if you're unhappy with a particular supplier, those are a good place to start. The best tariff or the juiciest incentive for your area might not be with the same company for gas as it is for electricity, so be prepared to compare the special offers and voucher codes for each separately.
In either case, the best chance of making a saving on your tariff itself is if you have never switched supplier. If you've switched fairly recently then you might be better off looking not at the tariffs but at the incentives and discounts given to new customers, which can sweeten the deal further.
One option if you've switched suppliers before is to look at getting both gas and electricity from the same supplier - if you can combine them under a single 'dual fuel' tariff, there are usually further savings to be made. If your existing tariff has just gone up in price, it's also worth looking for whether you can get a fixed-rate deal with one of the suppliers who have not yet increased their charges.
The market as a whole tends to go up in price at roughly the same time, so fixing your fees when you can gives you at least a slim chance of insulating yourself against those increases for 12 months or so.
The notion of television as being a 'utility' may seem like an odd one, but there are increasingly good reasons to think of your home entertainment in this sense. First of all, there are more and more channels - and different providers offer different combinations. Secondly, your choice of home entertainment provider may affect whether or not you can access on-demand content. Thirdly, some providers will now supply you with a PVR, or personal video recorder, a digital set-top box capable of recording one or more programmes while you are watching another one, and playing back the recorded content at a later date.
All of this increasing complexity - combined with the different ways television is now broadcast (aerials, satellite, cable and even over the Internet) - means that the once-fixed world of televisual entertainment is blossoming into a fully fledged utility in its own right. There are multiple providers offering tailored packages, complete with special offers, discounts and voucher codes to try and persuade you to choose their package over the rest of the market.
When it comes to Internet access, the offers available to you change with time. It used to be that the best deal was the one that included the best broadband modem or router - but now almost any new connection will include the necessary hardware as standard. These days, it's mostly about speed, and you're likely to see special offers that promise lightning-fast downloads or unlimited bandwidth, without the fees breaking the bank.
Internet access services are still developing, and the major telecoms companies are investing in faster, fibre-optic infrastructure, so you can expect the offers to keep evolving too. Cloud-based technologies are reaching maturity, and it's likely that the amount of free online storage space you receive will become a significant factor in some deals in the not-too-distant future.
Like dual fuel tariffs, broadband bundles are a good way to make the most of your home entertainment, by getting your telephone, television and internet package in one from a single provider. This is called 'triple-play' but is still not the most advanced option on the market. Some companies offer quad-play, which also incorporates mobile phone access or some similar wireless service.
The more services get bundled together, the more complicated it can be to work out the best deal - particularly when you start to include extras like video-on-demand that's delivered via your Internet connection, online gaming via games consoles, or the ability to watch live television on your mobile phone. That's why at HotDeals.co.uk we aim to bring you the best deals, listed clearly for comparison, and continually updated as the different media brands launch new incentive schemes and product packages.
Putting a price on utilities
The thing that all utilities have in common is that they are somewhere between a product and a service - you might not think of electricity as being a physical thing, and you definitely probably don't think of television broadcasts or internet data in that sense. However, whether it's electricity, gas, water, telephone calls, television programmes or broadband data, something is always being supplied to you, and part of what you pay for is the quality and reliability of that supply.
As such, you will sometimes see deals listed that offer benefits that are hard to quantify - dedicated customer service based in the UK, for instance, or access to Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere in the country, or free access to on-demand films for the first few months of your contract. Only you can decide which of these kinds of special offers are attractive to you - which is why we list as many as possible, as clearly as possible, and leave the decision up to you.