Sometimes referred to as the ‘forgotten utility’, many UK residents view their water charges as something they just have to live with. Even when we discovered that water bills were set to rise by as much as 5 per cent in April 2016, still very few households considered whether they could save money.
Everyone knows they can switch gas and electricity provider and save loads each year, but because we can’t change water supplier, it’s tempting to think there’s no way to save. However, there are still huge savings to be had when it comes to water bills, if you know how to go about it. Here’s what you need to know about your water bills, and how you can cut hundreds off the annual cost.
How do you pay?
In the UK, you can’t switch water providers, which takes away the element of competition in driving down the price. However, you can decide how you are billed, and this can make a huge difference to what you pay.
Paying a fixed price
If you don’t have a water meter, you’ll be getting billed based on your homes ‘rateable value’. This means it doesn’t matter how much water you use (or save), you’ll still pay the same amount for your supply.
Paying for what you use
If you have a water meter, you will be charged for what you’re using. Around 40 per cent of UK homes have water meters now, and this can make a big difference to your charges, particularly if you are conservative with your use.
Related: Yorkshire Water Contact Numbers
If you are currently on a fixed price but contemplating moving to a water meter, you’ll need to figure out if it is financially worth it. In Scotland, you have to pay to have your meter changed, and it costs a fair bit too, so it’s rarely worth making the switch. However, in England and Wales, water companies will put you on a meter free of charge, so if you live in a small household and are careful with your water use, this could be a good first step. MoneySavingExpert states you could save £100 or more every year by switching to a water meter.
Switching to a water meter doesn’t have to be forever. Companies such as Northumbria Water agree to switch you back to a rated supply if you have not saved any money in the first two years. However, do check out your local water company’s policy, because Southern Water will not switch you back as they are in the process of rolling out meters to all their customers due to the frequent droughts in the south east of England. Use a free water meter calculator to find out if switching the way you are billed is likely to work for you.
What if you can’t have a meter?
In a few unusual situations, the water company will refuse to fit a water meter if it is impractical to do so. This happens sometimes in blocks of flats where the supply and pipework are shared between lots of residents. It is possible to appeal to OFWAT, but in some cases it is just not possible to have a meter.
If you are conservative with your water and believe you should be able to save money, you can request an ‘assessed charge bill’. This means your water company will assess your bill based on the number of people in your home and the size of the property. The exact process for this varies from one supplier to the next, but it is worth checking it out. If the assessed charge is higher than your metered charge would have been, you can just stick to the payment method you had before.
Save water with smart gadgets
You can grab some amazing water saving gadgets completely free of charge from your water company, all of which will help you to drive down your consumption even more. Save Water Save Money is a great website which brings together all the information you’ll need about available freebies, as well as lots of useful advice. Some of the gadgets available include:
- Water saving shower heads: Use less water but without spoiling your shower
- Hippo toilet savers: Cistern devices designed to save 3 litres of water each flush
- Tap aerators: Tried and tested tap aerators you can fit yourself to save money
- Shower timers: Take control of your family’s shower use
- Bath toys: Inflatable bath toys to reduce the amount of water you use at bath time
- Toothbrush timers: Save up to 12 litres when your children brush their teeth
Lots of water companies offer reduced price water butts for the garden too. If you’re serious about saving water and cutting down on your water bills, this is a great place to start.