One of the significant costs of running a household is the water bill. Some people might not think about it much, but water usage is a crucial part of everyday life. Everyone has to pay for the provision of clean water and the removal of wastewater from their property. Depending on the area you live in, this could cost anywhere between £300 and £1000 a year. The issue with water bills is that this is a private market with a fixed provider for particular areas. This means that unlike other household bills such as electricity, you can’t shop around to find the cheapest provider and switch to them. Unless you move home to another region, you will be stuck with your local supplier and their fixed costs. However, if you have a high water bill, you may still be able to reduce it. Switching to a water meter could have a big impact on your bill.
How do water bills work without a water meter?
If you do not have a water meter, your water provider will charge you a fixed unmetered rate. They do not base this amount on your actual water usage. For older homes in the UK, their water bill is based on the “rateable value” of the property instead. This value does not reflect the number of people living in the property and using water, either. A single person living in larger property could be paying much more than someone living alone in a smaller property, even if they use the same amount of water. This is why many people could benefit from bills based on the amount of water they actually use rather than the size of their property. If you have more bedrooms in your property than people living there, then your bills could be lower with a meter. However, if you have a large family, you could end up actually paying more for everyone’s water usage with a meter, regardless of how small your property may be in size.
What happens when you get a water meter?
Some people will voluntarily request the installation of a water meter, usually in the hopes of saving money. In some areas, water meters are compulsory, to reduce strain on resources in areas where there may not be enough. Right now around 46% of properties in the UK have a water meter, and this number is increasing. You can contact your water supplier to discuss applying for and installing a water meter. If it becomes compulsory, your supplier will contact you to make the necessary arrangements. They should install the meter within three months, though it could be as soon as a few weeks. Once you have a water meter, you’ll need to start monitoring your usage. The water company will send you a bill twice a year. If they can’t take readings, they will estimate your charges. It is best to take regular readings and submit them.
How much does getting a water meter cost?
Unless you live in Scotland, water meters are free. The charges in Scotland can be very high, so water meters are usually not worth it. In England and Wales, your provider should install a water meter for free upon request. However, this is subject to no extra modifications being required for the installation. Depending on your property and where it is possible to install the meter, they might have to amend pipework or replace stop taps. In this case, they would charge you for the cost of installation. Having to do additional work such as installing a new boundary box could also delay the installation of your water meter. If they cannot fit a water meter easily and for free, you should consider if getting one is actually worth it. Your annual savings might be less than the cost of installation, though they would still add up eventually.
How much money can you save with a water meter?
This is the all-important question. Most households who switch to water meters will end up saving £50 – £150 a year on their water bill. In the south-west of England, where water bills are highest, some customers even save an average of £400. The amount that you can save depends on your current charges and your water usage habits. You can use the CC Water calculator to estimate how much you might pay with a water meter and compare it to your non-metered bill. However, you should also contact your water company to ask for a more accurate idea of your potential savings. If the savings are high, you should switch to a meter. If you become even more economical with your usage, you could save even more money. If the savings are a small amount, it probably isn’t worth getting a meter. For families with high water consumption, it is generally more cost-effective to simply stick with non-metered rates.
How do you reduce water bills with a water meter?
With a water meter, you will be able to see how much water you are using as you use it. This will help you to identify leaks or other issues if there are sudden drastic increases in water usage. It is also an incentive to reduce your water consumption, which not only lowers your bill but is better for the environment, too. There are plenty of ways to become more water-efficient, even with families who have multiple children, pets, and water-using appliances. If you wash dishes by hand, always use a washing-up bowl or consider getting a dishwasher. Only use dishwashers and washing machines for full loads. Turn the taps off when you are brushing your teeth, and take brief showers instead of baths. Install a device in your toilet to save water when flushing. You can get water-saving devices for free through Save Water Save Money. You could also collect some rainwater or washing water to clean cars or water plants.
Can you change your mind about using a water meter?
If you move into a property that already has a water meter, you can’t decide to not use it. If it becomes compulsory for your water company to install a meter, you also must use it. When you request a water meter, you do have 12-24 months from installation to revert back to non-metered charging. You should check with your water company how long you have to change your mind. If you think you could save but aren’t sure how much, you could always try it out. See how much you save when you receive your first bill. Then you can figure out if it is worth staying on the meter, or if it would be cheaper for you to go back to your previous billing rate. The water company will not remove the meter from your property, so there is a small chance that this could negatively affect the selling price if you decided to sell your property later on.
What if your supplier can’t install a water meter?
In some cases, it might be too impractical to fit a water meter. An example is if you are living in a block of flats with shared pipes. You can appeal against a decision through Ofwat if you think that it is unreasonable for your water company to deny you a meter. If they justifiably cannot fit a meter at your property, you could ask to switch to an “assessed charge” instead. This charge varies depending on the company, but is usually based on how many people live in your property. Sometimes they charge a single occupancy rate or base it on the type of property or number of bedrooms. It might be a fixed charge based on the average metered rate for your area. If the assessed charge is higher than the metered rate would have been, you don’t have to take it. You can just stick to the non-metered charge you were already on. However, it is always worth enquiring with your water supplier to check what you could save.