On one hand, Octopus Energy has award-winning customer service, a plethora of glowing reviews, uses 100% green electricity and fully carbon offsets the production of its gas. But Bulb Energy is also extremely popular, uses 100% green electricity, is 100% carbon neutral - and has 10% gas green added into the mix.
So which is better: Octopus or Bulb? We put the two energy firms to the test to help you decide which supplier is right for you. (Although if price is all you're interested in, just skip straight to our online energy comparison to see which is cheaper in your area.)
Bulb vs Octopus: what’s the difference?
One of the key differences between Bulb and Ocotpus is that Bulb only has one tariff, making the supplier's offering very simple to understand. It’s a variable tariff - so your energy bill can go up or down depending on the changing cost of energy. Bulb says that this enables it to pass on any drops in the wholesale price of energy to its customers, and its tariff is consistently one of the cheapest in the market (as well one of the greenest).
Octopus offers more variety, with multiple tariffs to choose between. All use 100% renewable electricity, but can decide how green you want to be, whether or not you want to fix your bills, or whether you want to choose one of the firm's more innovative tariffs to potentially save even more money.
Bulb vs Octopus: price
Price comparison (April 2020)
Electricity unit rate
Octopus 12M fixed: 14.658p
Electricity standing charge
Octopus 12M fixed: 20.1915p
Gas unit rate
Octopus 12M fixed: 2.856p
Gas standing charge
Octopus 12M fixed: 17.85p
Bulb won the 'best value for money' category in Uswitch's 2020 Energy Awards, with Ocotpus named runner-up. However, it's important to remember that energy prices differ depending on where you live in the UK, and how much energy you use. The only way to find out which supplier offers the best energy deal in your area is to run a quick energy comparison and see which tariff is cheaper.
When we looked, we found very little difference in price when it comes to the cheapest fixed tariff from Octopus versus Bulb. Our energy price comparison showed just a 4p price difference a month when we got a quote for the average yearly household consumption of 4,000kWh of electricity and 12,000 kWh of gas (April 2020).
But if you compare Flexible Octopus vs Bulb’s flexible tariff, Bulb is cheaper by £89.04 over the course of a year. However, that's not the end of the price comparison.
Octopus has some innovative tariffs that don't show up in energy comparisons - even though they may in fact be the cheapest option. The Agile Octopus tariff, for example, recently paid homes to use electricity over the first weekend in April. Its energy prices are updated every half an hour, and that weekend saw negative prices for the first time during the day, thanks to an abundance of green energy.
You need to be aware of the pitfalls of this new tariff: it’s a beta product, so things might go wrong. It’s not fixed, so your bills can rise and fall (although there is an upper price cap). You also need a SMETS2 smart meter, or a secure SMETS1 meter to be eligible.
For most households, the price difference between the cheapest tariffs appears to be negligible - unless you’re considering one of Octopus's innovative tariffs.
Bulb vs Octopus: which is greener?
Green electricity mix
Both Bulb and Octopus use 100% green electricity, and both offer 100% carbon neutral gas: Bulb as standard through its one tariff; Octopus through its Super Green tariff. They achieve this by investing in projects around the world that offset the carbon generated in the production and consumption of their gas.
However, 10% of Bulb's gas is green - which means it's naturally produced from the breakdown of organic matter, such as plant material, manure, sewage and so on - whereas Octopus doesn't use any green gas, and you'll need to choose the Super Green tariff to ensure your carbon is offset.
Both companies get the majority of their green electricity from wind, followed by solar and then hydro - but with a difference in the ratio of each. If you have a solar panel, you might be interested in the Outgoing Octopus tariff that enables homes to be paid for the surplus solar energy they generate. Octopus claims to be the only energy supplier that does this.
When it comes to the question of which is greener, it isn't an easy comparison. We think Bulb wins out with its 10% green gas, but Octopus's Super Green and Outgoing Octopus tariffs are absolutely worth considering.
Bulb vs Octopus: customer service
When it comes to customer service, Octopus just comes in top. Uswitch named the company supplier of the year 2020, with an impressive overall customer satisfaction score of 92%, versus Bulb's 91%. Which? rates Octopus most highly for customer service too.
Over on user review site Trustpilot, the findings are just as close. Bulb averages 4.7 out of 5 stars, from over 44,000 customer reviews (June 2020) - with 96% rating the company 'excellent' or 'great'. Octopus has less user reviews - 28,000 - but scores an average of 4.8 out of 5, with 97% rating the company 'excellent' or 'great'.
The reality is that both energy firms offer similar propositions for customer service, so you can be confident that you’ll likely receive stellar service from either - but Octopus takes the edge here.
Bulb vs Octopus: user reviews
As we mentioned above, Octopus and Bulb are both highly rated on Trustpilot, with 4.8 and 4.7 out of 5 stars respectively. Overall, Octopus has marginally fewer bad reviews, with customers raving about the company’s communication, friendly staff, and great service. Bulb's customers, meanwhile, praise the firm's simple offering, excellent customer service and smooth switching process.
Bulb vs Octopus: complaints
Just 2% rated Octopus 'bad' and 3% rated Bulb bad (as of June 2020). However, looking at user complaints on Trustpilot is important, as it can give you a hint of the problems you may encounter.
The most recent negative reviews for Octopus we saw came from disgruntled customers who were moved to Octopus when it acquired Engie, and related to billing issues such as over-payments not being refunded. Most other complaints were about quote errors leading to higher bills than anticipated, or smart meter glitches, or issues caused by very unusual, specific circumstances.
Bulb’s bad reviews mentioned issues with smart meter installation, meter readings, and billing issues when closing the account. One key theme came through, with many complaining that when they called customer service, the operatives didn’t understand the issue and they had to repeatedly contact them to resolve issues.
The complaints we saw about Bulb were more concerning because there was a pattern to them, while the Octopus complaints felt more like bad luck due to systems not working - and often included an acknowledgement from the customer that the staff were helpful.
Bulb vs Octopus: verdict
Choosing between Bulb vs Octopus is a tough decision. Both energy suppliers offer green electricity and carbon neutral gas, and there’s barely any difference in price between the cheapest tariffs. Overall, if value for money or green energy are most important for you, we think Bulb wins (just). But if you're looking for the very best customer service, or want a choice of tariff, Octopus is your best bet.
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