Water dilemma: Meters can lower your bills, but it's not for everyone
Sunday 14 June 2009
Many homeowners are now wise to the notion of switching energy supplier, but when it comes to water, shopping around for a better deal isn't an option.
Consumers face an average water and sewerage bill of £342 a year after this year's price hikes of an average 4.1 per cent. What's more, things are set to get worse after water companies in England and Wales announced proposed bill increases last month. These proposals are used by Ofwat, the regulator, to determine prices for the next five years, and among the proposals were increases of almost 30 per cent above inflation.
What can consumers do to cut costs? "If you want to save money on your water bill you currently only have one option: to install a water meter," says Will Marples, home utilities expert at comparison site uSwitch.com. As things stand, only 35 per cent of households are using a water meter and could be missing out on savings of up to £125 a year.
With an unmetered home, the water bill is based on the rateable value of the home and does not take into account the water used. The rateable value can vary widely, which means that both heavy and light users will be charged at the same rate. When a water meter is in place, however, the bills are based on actual consumption and give consumers the opportunity to control usage and cut their bills.
Households across the UK can get a water meter free. However, while installation is usually free in England and Wales, north of the border customers are expected to pay. Charges depend on how much work is required. If it is deemed impractical or too expensive – for example, for households with shared pipes in a block of flats – the company may refuse to install a meter.
If this happens, consumers have another alternative: they can apply for what is called an "assessed charge". This means that the water company will bill households based on an estimation of likely water usage. This is determined by a number of variables, such as the number of occupants and type of property, but it will differ from one company to the next so consumers should always check.
Water meters are not for everyone. Experts say that as a rough rule of thumb, if there are more rooms than people in a household a meter should reduce the water bill. However, any savings are reliant on usage and for anyone likely to have high water consumption, a meter could prove more expensive. "If you use a lot of water – perhaps you have a large family and are always running washing machines, dishwashers and baths – then sticking to paying a flat rate would be better for you," says Mr Marples.
There is also a lot to be said for the ease of a flat rate. If the saving from using a water meter is only minimal, some consumers may prefer the security of budgeting for a fixed bill.
Another potential problem with water meters is that any leaks could result in a significantly higher bill than normal. However, consumers are entitled to a leakage allowance, meaning that the water company will not charge for water lost through the leak. Both the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) and uSwitch offer online calculators based on water habits that can assess how much can be saved by installing a meter. Consumers can also contact their water company for a calculation of potential savings. Consumers are allowed to revert back to unmetered billing if they find they are not saving money, but this must be done within 12 months of switching.
However, not all households will have a choice about whether to install a meter. The water company for Folkestone and Dover has been granted water scarcity status, which means it can force customers to install water meters.
Tony Smith, the chief executive of the CCW, says: "We support more metering in areas where the water supply might be under pressure in the future, as long as there is a safety net in place to help protect those who might see their bills go up if they are forced to have a meter."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting
Money alert: Overdrafts at HSBC and First Direct
'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns
How to protect your assets if the stock markets begin to head south again
Child Maintenance Service to replace Child Support Agency - but is it better?
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...
£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony