Like many other people, you may find that the average electricity bill looks intimidatingly complex or even incomprehensible. However, if you do not understand your bills then it will be harder for you to notice any mistakes, and you may end up being overcharged without ever noticing that this problem has arisen. As a result, it pays to make sure you take the time to learn what your bill is telling you.

Luckily, most energy bills have certain features in common, so the following general guide will help to demystify the information that you receive.

* Your account or your reference number: This term refers to the crucial number that you will need to have to hand (and be able to supply) if you want to discuss your electricity bill with your provider.  For example, you will need to quote the reference number in order to dispute a bill in an apparent instance of overcharging. Using this number, the company will identify you and be able to access the relevant details about your electricity consumption and your bill history.

* Tariff information: Your bill should clearly state the name of your current tariff. It is important to know the name of your tariff (and the details of what that tariff involves) so that you can make more effective comparisons with other tariffs offered by competing electricity providers.

* Your bill period: Every bill that you receive will indicate the precise date on which it was issued, and you should also see a print of the particular dates to which the bill applies. In most cases, this will be a period of three months.

* Payment information: Your bill should also indicate when you last made a payment to your provider, exactly how much you paid, and how much you now owe for the current billing period. In the majority of cases, the supplier will present these numbers without including the VAT, but the amount of VAT that you owe will then be listed below (and this VAT will usually be at a standard level of 5%). If you owe any more money or if you are eligible for any discounts, this will also be printed on your bill. Beneath all of this information, there will be a total amount that you need to pay (which will take the VAT, all further charges and any discounts into consideration).

* Breakdown of your energy usage: Another potentially useful feature of the average energy bill is the detailed way in which it will itemise your energy usage. This itemisation will often be found on the back of the bill. You will be able to see the kWh (kilowatt hours) used, the fee charges for each of these hours, and a statement of the latest readings from your meter. Armed with this information, you can start figuring out ways in which your household might approach reducing its electricity consumption.

* Indication of whether your readings are estimated: If you see an ‘E’ printed next to your meter reading then this is there to inform you of the fact that your reading is an estimated one. This information may be extremely important in the event that you are overcharged, as you might be able to provide your own actual meter readings as proof that the estimate is substantially incorrect. If you see an 'A' next to a meter reading on an energy bill, however, it represents an actual reading.

* Details about services for the hard of hearing: Electricity providers in the UK should supply a phone number on the bill that is specifically designed for customers who have hearing difficulties. This is usually called a minicom service.

* Your provider’s contact details: Your bill will always come with an address and phone number that you can use to contact your electricity supplier in the event that you wish to dispute a particular charge or ask a pertinent question.

* Information about how to complain: Your bill should also display a specific number that you should call if you want to complain about the current service provided by your electricity supplier. In some cases, this will be a specific line for complaints, and in other cases it will be the same number as the one that you call for more general queries.

* Electricity supply number: Most bills have the MPAN on the front. This is short for ‘Meter Point Administration Number’, and it uniquely identifies the electricity supply point that exists in your home.

* Meter point reference number: The meter point reference number or (MPRN) is the number of your particular gas meter, and will typically be printed on the back of your energy bill. You will need this number if you want to switch your gas plan.

* Information about electrical emergencies: If your household experiences a power cut or another emergency that directly relates to the electricity supply, it is important to know exactly which number you should call in order to receive a swift and effective response. This vital number should be clearly printed on each bill you receive.

* A payment slip: If you do not currently make direct debit payments for your electricity, your bill will also provide you with the means to pay by filling in a slip (which will usually be printed at the bottom). However, if this is your method of payment then it is worth noting that your average electricity bill may well end up being substantially lowered if you choose to switch to paying by direct debit. Since many energy providers want to encourage customers to pay by direct debit, there is usually a discount for those who do.

* Information on how you can save money: Finally, always make sure you inspect the bill to see if there any adverts that explain how you can spend less money by taking advantage of the provider’s current promotions (or switching to newer, more cost-effective tariffs).