abcde YOUR PROPERTY YOUR PROPERTY & YOU A guide to utilities and your property

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A guide to utilities and your property



1. Things to locate in the property

2. Choosing how to pay for utilities

3. What type of energy user are you?

4. How to choose a supplier, and which tariff to pick

5. How to read meters

6. The biggest consumers


Things to locate in the property


This is a valve used to restrict or isolate the flow of a liquid or gas through a pipe.

• You may need to know where this is in case of a water leak, or to allow maintenance of the property.

Gas meter

A gas meter is used to measure the volume of gas used.

• It is useful to know where this is, and it is particularly good to read the numbers regularly, keeping a note of them and perhaps informing your supplier so your bills are accurate.

• Consumption is measured in units, for example cubic feet for imperial meters.

• If measured in cubic feet you should see the conversion from this measurement into kilowatt-hours (kWh) on the bill (it is roughly multiplied by 31.3).

Electricity meter

This is a device that measures the amount of electric energy used by a property.

• Again it is good practice to know where this is and read the numbers regularly.

• Units used are usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) so expect to see this on your bills or documentation.

Water meter

This measures the amount, or units, of water you use.

• You can either have a metered bill or pay a set rate. If you are a low user it may be worth trying a water meter, but remember the trial period only lasts 12 months.

• If you have a water meter you will only pay for the units of water you actually use plus a standing charge to cover meter reading and billing services.

• If you do not have a meter you will pay a set rate for your water based on the rateable value of the property.


Choosing How To Pay For Utilities

Quarterly bills

• Quarterly bills are usually sent every 3 months, which can mean there is a lot to pay at once.

• If you choose to pay this way it is a good idea to budget or put money aside ready for the bill. Try keeping your old bills so you know how much to budget for.

• You will usually be sent a reminder if you do not pay the bill when it arrives. Suppliers often offer a discount off your next bill if you pay promptly.

Direct Debit

• A Direct Debit is a way of paying your bills automatically. It is an instruction that an account holder gives to the bank to collect money from an account and it can be the cheapest way to pay, if you have enough money in a bank acccount.

• You should be told how much will be taken out of your account in advance but you have no control over how much is taken.

• The amount taken can change from month to month, which could make it more difficult for you to budget.

• There are considerable discounts offered for paying this way.

To set up a Direct Debit:

1. Contact the organisation you wish to pay and ask to set up a Direct Debit. They will arrange for you to complete a Direct Debit Instruction which can be done over the phone, online or by post.

2. Complete the Direct Debit Instruction. You will need to provide:

• Your name and address

• Name and address of your bank or building society

• Your bank or building society account number

• The branch sort code of your bank or building society

• The name(s) on the account.

3. The organisation will then forward the instruction onto your bank or building society.


Prepayment Meter

• If you have any problems paying for gas or electricity a supplier may require you to have a special meter fitted.

• Electricity or gas bought using a prepayment meter is usually more expensive.

• You may be without gas or electricity if you have no money but it should avoid you getting into debt.

• Remember that if you plan on going away you will have to put money in to cover appliances such as fridges.

If you wish to remove a prepayment meter:


Must have been living in the property 12 months. They perform a credit check and then charge

£50 per prepayment meter for them to be removed.

EDF Energy

Do not perform a credit check and will change the prepayment meter to a standard meter for FREE after a month of being an EDF customer.

British Gas

Will perform a credit check, if passed they will replace the prepayment meter for FREE. If not passed, British Gas will charge a £300 security deposit which they will refund after 12 months of paying by Direct Debit.

Southern Electric

Will perform a credit check, if passed they will replace the prepayment meter for FREE. If not passed, Southern Electric will charge a £150 security deposit which they will refund after 12 months of paying by Direct Debit.


Will perform a credit check, if passed they will replace the prepayment meter for FREE. If not passed, Ebico will charge a £150 security deposit which they will refund after 12 months of paying by Direct Debit.

For more information on how to pay see the back of a utility bill.

Do not forget to budget for things like council tax, telephone, internet etc.

Policies subject to change, correct as of 01/04/11


What Type Of Energy User Are You?

It would be useful to look at your last statement from a utility company whilst reading this. If you do not have one to hand you can usually request a copy from your supplier, or they may be able to tell you over the phone how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you use in a YEAR.

Standard rate electricity Economy 7 rate electricity

LOW 1,650 kWh LOW 3,300 kWh

MEDIUM 3,300 kWh MEDIUM 6,600 kWh

HIGH 4,950 kWh HIGH 9,900 kWh

Economy 7 bills assume a 55% night time usage. If you do not use 50% or more of your energy at night it would be worth referring to the next section on 'Which tariff?' to determine if that tariff is appropriate for you.

Standard rate gas

LOW 10,000 kWh MEDIUM 20,500 kWh HIGH 28,000 kWh

If you do not know how many kilowatt-hours of energy you use you can use the table below as a rough indicator of the type of user you are.

"Low" consumption household


consumption household

"High" consumption household

ONE bedroom With one or two people

TWO/THREE bedrooms With two to four people

FOUR bedrooms or more With five people or more

Data from


How To Choose A Supplier

You can have the same supplier for both gas and electric or choose different suppliers for each, but bear in mind they offer a 'dual fuel discount' - money off if you choose them for gas AND electricity.

There is less choice when it comes to water suppliers, with one main company usually providing the water for a whole region.

• Comparison sites such as and can be useful to see which suppliers are available to you by typing in your postcode.

• Be careful not to sign up with door to door salesmen - they often trap you into paying a lot more than expected.

• Most decisions come down to price, but you will find the companies are constantly competing and changing their prices so it is often hard to tell who is cheapest.

• Choosing a supplier should be done in conjunction with choosing a tariff.

Which tariff?

It is important to consider your personal circumstances, what is cheap for your neighbour may not be the best option for you. Be honest with yourself about how high a user you are and when you use most of your energy.

It is also important to note that if you are on a prepayment meter you are not always eligible for all available tariffs.

Standard tariffs

This is the tariff that most people are on, often without knowing. When you move into a property this is usually the tariff the supplier will place you on, unless you request otherwise.

Fixed tariffs

Due to recent price increases most suppliers now offer fixed tariffs which for example 'promise to be 6% cheaper than the standard tariff' until a given date. These can be a good option but be aware the supplier will probably impose charges if you want to leave the agreement early.

Additionally, these may only be offered to customers who are willing to receive bills by email.

Online tariffs


These are by far the cheapest tariffs offered to the general public. Sometimes they can even be as cheap as social tariffs (discussed later). They usually involve you submitting meter readings online and receiving your bill by email. If this suits you, a lot of money can be saved.

Economy 7 tariffs

Economy 7 tariffs offer cheaper electricity during the evening, and were originally designed to be used with storage heaters which charge up overnight. They only apply to electricity. However, be aware that the cheaper 'night rate' often does not apply until 11pm at night, and the time can vary from supplier to supplier. Also, because you get a cheaper night rate the day rate is often twice as expensive compared to a standard tariff.

Social tariffs

Suppliers offer a number of tariffs for those that are disabled, suffer chronic illness or are on certain benefits. They are often not advertised but each supplier will have one so it is worth exploring (please see table).

Also note that often charities such as Age UK join up with suppliers to offer cheaper tariffs for the over 65s in particular.

Social Tariffs

Company Name of tariff

Offers Criteria Contact

details Npower Spreading


Cheapest tariff regardless of payment method. 20% discount for cash/cheque and prepayment methods.

Income under £13,500 and at least one person in the household should be over 60, under 16, disabled or have a chronic illness.

Exists as 3rd party referral 0808 172 6999 Scottish


Fresh Start

Best tariff price, equivalent to discount online direct debit rates.

Aged 60+ or in receipt of AA, Council Tax Benefit, DLA, Child Tax/Working Tax Credit with income under £15,460, Housing Benefit, IBJSA or Pension Credit.

0845 270 0700

Scottish and Southern

Energyplu s Care

Upto 20% discount on current fuel prices.

Must be spending 15% of income on fuel costs. If 10%

of income can offer £50 off each account.

0800 622 838


British Gas

Essential Combined

Around 16% cheaper than standard tariff.

Must have income less than

£15,000 and receive Disability Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Pension Credit and 70+/terminally ill.

0800 072 5230

E-on Warm


Offers upto 15%


Must be 60+ and receive Pension Credit, DLA, Attendance Allowance or high energy consumption arising from a medical condition.

0800 404 6287

EDF Energy

Energy Assist

Offers same tariff as Direct Debit

customers plus £75 annual discount for dual fuel, £37.50 for single fuel.

Must spend over 10% of income on energy cost and receive Income Support or Pension Credit.

0800 269 450

N.B. The names of these tariffs and their requirements are likely to change over time.

How to read meters

Gas meters

There are two types of meter:

Credit Prepayment

When giving a meter reading, you may need your MPRN (Gas Meter Point Reference Number) or 'M' number. It is a ten digit number and can be found on your gas bill.

To read a digital meter use only the figures in white. Ignore the numbers in red/after the decimal point.

You may also come across 'clock' type meters. In this instance you should look at each dial to see where the hand is pointing. Write down the number the hand in the first dial is pointing to, then


move on to the next dial and do the same. If the hand is between numbers note down the lower number. Often you should ignore the number in the very last dial, to give you a five digit reading overall.

Electricity meters

The thing to watch out for here is variable rate meters:

However if you have a standard meter you just have to read off the first five figures of the number displayed, from left to right.

The Biggest Consumers

If you are on a STANDARD tariff...


- It can cost up to £40 a year to run a medium sized fridge.


- It can cost up to £49 a year to run a medium sized upright freezer.

Electric tumble dryers

- It can cost up to £140 a year to run a tumble dryer based on 148 6kg drying cycles.

Washing machines

- It can cost up to £65 a year to run a washing machine, based on 274 wash cycles per year - about 5 a week.


- It can cost up to £45 a year to run a dishwasher, based on 250 washes a year - just over 4 a week.

Electric heaters

- A 2000W heater costs £14 a week to run, based on 8 hours a day usage.

Variable rate meters are often referred to as 'Economy 7' meters. They give one reading for daytime usage and one for night-time electricity usage. This is because your supplier charges you two different rates.

If you have one of these read off both sets of numbers, but miss off the last number from each row, usually in red.



- It can cost up to £80 a year to run a 32" LCD TV based on 6 hours usage a day.

These things will cost much more to run if you have prepayment meters for example, and less if you have the most energy efficient appliances.

 Items left on standby use 85% of the energy they would use if fully switched on.

 Cooking by gas costs about a third less than cooking with electricity.

 Washing at 40°C instead of 60°C uses a third less e lectricity.

 Low energy lightbulbs use one fifth of the electricity used by 'standard' bulbs and last ten times longer.

 Microwaves are suprisingly low users of electricity, so it would often be better to heat something up in the microwave than use the oven, unless the oven is already in use.

Information gathered from




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