How can you cut your water bills?
When it comes to making savings on utilities, water is rarely at the forefront of people’s minds.
Certainly, the savings available are greater for gas and electricity (find out how great by comparing deals now), but there are measures to take that can significantly reduce costs.
Can you switch water supplier?
Although that may not always be the case.
The government has said it wants to make switching a reality and has asked the water regulator Ofwat to look into the way this could work and would like to see choice introduced by 2020.
However, there is a strong view among some experts that switching would not work effectively and people would only be able to lower the administration costs connected with your supply, rather than the cost of water itself.
The supply of your water would remain with the provider in your area, and that makes up the main cost.
The Consumer Council for Water estimates that customers will typically save under £10 a year by switching.
This is, of course, dwarfed by the £100s to be saved switching energy supplier.
So, are there better ways, right now, that could help you save money?
One of the best ways for many people is to use a water meter.
First, it’s important to understand how your bill is calculated.
How is your water bill calculated without a meter?
If you don’t have a meter, you will be charged a fixed amount each year for water supply and sewerage services.
This charge usually relates to the rateable value of your property.
You should check your bill to see how you pay for your water.
At the moment, only some 40% of customers in England and Wales have a water meter, although this proportion is slowly increasing.
Metered supply – will I save money?
With a water meter, your water consumption is measured in the same way as your electricity and gas supplies and you pay only for what you use.
Your water company will be able to assist you in working out how much water you could expect to use and so to work out whether you will be better off being metered.
You can also use the water meter calculator on the Consumer Council for Water’s website.
Many people will indeed save money, but not necessarily.
This will depend on:
* How much you currently pay
* The number of people in your home
* How much water each of you use
* How much you are able to reduce your water use
The main advantage of a water meter
So, a water meter, in itself, won’t save you money.
But you could end up spending less.
This is mainly due to the fact that metered usage makes people more conscious of the amount of water they’re using.
And being aware encourages less use.
Using water more wisely can also cut your gas and electricity bills because heating water uses a lot of energy.
If you decide to try a meter, your water company will usually install it for free.
How to get a water meter installed
1. Contact your company to find out the savings you may make by having a meter.
2. If you can make savings, ask for an application form for a meter.
3. Fill in the application form and return it to your company. You can usually do this by post, over the phone or online.
4. Subject to a survey, the company will fit the meter within three months of receiving your application.
5. You should receive your first water bill within six months of the meter being installed.
What if my water bills actually rise?
If you choose to have a meter installed, you can go back to your old method of charging within the first 12 months.
The company won’t remove the meter, though.
If you change your mind before the meter is installed, contact your company immediately to cancel your request.
After that, as long as you tell the company within the 12 months, they will give you the option of returning to unmetered bills.
As always, we recommend giving this notice in writing.
Can a company refuse to let me go back to unmetered bills?
In some cases, yes.
This is something to check before you request a meter be installed.
The government has allowed some companies in areas that have been decreed ‘water stressed’ to charge by meter, whatever the wishes of the bill payer.
The Environment Agency decides this.
Those areas of England affected are most of south-east and eastern England.
Can I be forced to have a meter?
Your water supplier can choose to install a meter at your property, but it can only use it to calculate your bill if you:
* Use an automatic watering device (such as a garden sprinkler)
* Automatically fill a swimming pool
* Have a power shower or extra large bath
* Use a reverse osmosis water softening unit
* Are the new occupier of a property (provided it has not already sent you an unmetered bill)
* Live in a water stressed area where the Government has allowed compulsory metering as part of a plan to maintain secure water supplies
For most users, then, the best tactic is to compare what you pay now to what it is estimated you would pay if you used a water meter.
And then give it a go.
Of course, check that the 12-month rule applies to you, allowing you to switch back to non-metered billing before you go ahead.
And, of course, there are plenty of ways to save on water usage, if you are metered – or if you just want to do your bit to help the environment:
Other ways to save on water
1. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. A running tap wastes more than six litres of water a minute.
2. Make sure that your washing machine and dishwasher (if you have one) are full before you use them. Try to use the most water and energy efficient settings.
3. Fix a dripping tap. This can save as much as 75 litres of water a day.
4. Use a bowl to wash up rather than leaving the hot tap running. You could save about £25 a year on your energy bills.
5. Install a water butt. The average rooftop collects 85,000 litres of water every year. A water butt is a great way to put some of this to use.
6. Check the overflow on your toilet cistern to make sure it is not using more water than necessary.
Want more? Discover the five surprising things driving up your energy bills.
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