I’ve had a water meter for 12 months now – has it cut what I pay each year?
Water meters can really divide people. Some can save a decent chunk of cash every year, but others can see their bills rocket. I’ve always been unsure about them, but now after a year of being charged for the water I use I can now share with your whether it was worth it for me.
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Who can get a water meter?
For most homes in England and Wales you can ask your water company to fit a water meter. It’s normally completely up to you. However, some water companies, including Thames Water, have made it compulsory.
It’s free to get a water meter installed in England and Wales. You’ve got one to two years after installation to compare costs. If you find it’s costing you more, you can switch back to your standard rates. That is of course unless you’re in an area with compulsory metering.
Some water meters are smart meters which let you monitor use. Others need to be read by the water company and you have to wait for your bill to find out charges.
In Northern Ireland your water rates are already included and in Scotland a water meter installation isn’t free.
Should you get a water meter?
So how do you know if it is? Well, non-metered water is charged based on the size of your house – a bit like council tax. Water meters on the other hand measure exactly how much you are using.
A simple rule of thumb to decide which is for you is if there are more bedrooms than there are people living in a house then you’re likely to be paying more than you need to for your water.
If you want to get a more accurate picture, then there’s also an online calculator. That’s what I looked at before deciding whether to give the meter a go.
The calculator will give you a rough total which is estimated on exactly how many showers you have a week, how many times you use the dishwasher, washing machine, baths, how many times you flush the toilet and so on.
The problem is if you have more people in a house than there are bedrooms or people use water a lot – you know maybe you’ve got a keen gardener and using the hose lots – then it’s very likely to cost you more money.
Did it save us cash?
Because only two of us are living in a four-bedroom house there was always a good chance we’d be paying less with a water meter. However, since I work at home, I’m obviously using more water than people who are out at the office day-in, day-out.
The calculator estimated an annual bill of £376, a huge saving of £214, so it was a no-brainer for us to give this a try.
Frustratingly, we couldn’t read the meter ourselves, and there was no bill at all for the first 13 months!! This arrived a few months back and the total for that first year was pretty close to the estimate at £390. The final quarter was estimated as they only take a reading twice a year (which I think is ridiculous), so I think it could be a bit higher. But even so, we’re still saving a fair wedge of cash each year.
In fact, we really should have tried it in our previous property where I was living for close to eight years – in that time we could have been close to a grand better off.
Of course, that’s based on there just being two of us. I’ve played around with the calculator to estimate the cost if more people lived here. It’s still cheaper with three adults, but with four people it could easily be £70 or £80 more each year.
How to reduce costs when you have a water meter
If you’ve already got a meter because you’ve moved into a house with a meter, had one for more than two years or compulsory installations are happening, well there are still ways you can cut your bills and it’s very very simple. You use less water.
Work out what uses the most water
There’s another useful calculator from AqKWa you can use to identify where you can cut back on water use. It’s full on, but if you have three minutes to go through it properly you’ll get a good sense of whether you’ll get more bang for your buck by reducing your time in the shower or running the dishwasher less often.
If you can’t be bothered with that, there are obvious things you can do. For example, it’s making sure that you don’t necessarily flush the loo every single time. There’s that phrase “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. It might sound a bit rough… but it’s true that you don’t necessarily need to flush it every time – and that will save some water.
Free water saving devices
In fact there are all sorts of things you can get which can help you use less water. From special bags that go in the water cistern to reduce the flush through to shower timers. There are even slow release crystals you can put in plant pots which mean you don’t need to water them as often. And they are free from most water companies.
For most providers you can go via Save Water Save Money and enter your postcode. You’ll see what’s available and what you can order for free. Alternatively, just google your water company and see if they offer anything for customers.
My videos on water meters
Sharing some of the water saving devices you can get on Shop Smart Save Money (May 2019)
Here’s a video I made back in late 2017 from when I lived in London and Thames Water started digging up the roads to install meters.