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Should you switch to a water meter? The pros and cons

Could a water meter save you money and are there any other benefits?

The supply of water to our homes is a basic utility but unlike gas and electricity we don’t have the option of shopping around to find the best deals. That would indicate that the price is fixed and there’s not much we can do about it but that’s not necessarily the case as some people could find that they can save money on their water bills by switching to a water meter. The difference is that a non-metered supply is a fixed price regardless of how much water you use while having a water meter just charges you for the amount of water you actually use. Obviously this means that households that have high usage, such as larger families, are usually better off on a non-metered supply and those that don’t use as much, such as homes with just 1 or 2 people, are better on a meter.

But is it that simple and what other factors should you consider? We take a look at the issue and offer you some advice on how to work out whether you should swap.

Water meters: basic facts

Water meters are provided by your water supplier and you can request one free of charge. If you do this it should be installed within 3 months. This can usually be done via their website. Even if you live in rented accommodation, you can request that your landlord has one fitted as long as you have a tenancy agreement of 6 months or more.

Reasons to switch to a water meter

The following are some good reasons you may want to consider switching

  • Low volume water usage. Water meters are ideally suited to households where water usage is low. If you live alone or as a couple then this could be beneficial for you but it’s not always as simple as that. For example, you could have a small number of people in the home but a large garden that needs watering and you take daily baths. Likewise, you may be a family of 3 or 4 but you only take showers and don’t have a garden. There is a useful tool that you can use to calculate your usage here which takes into account all of these kinds of factors.
  • Better for the environment? Most report that they become much more water conscious when they’re paying for the amount of water that they actually use. This means making more effort not to waste water and that is much better for the environment. You can see some tips for saving water here.
  • Higher property bands could pay more. This varies from provider to provider but some base their non-metered charges on your property banding. Therefore if you live alone but in a large property, or in an expensive area which attracts a higher band, you could be paying more than you need to for water.
  • Early leak detection. If you were unlucky enough to get a leak on your property, your water meter could give you an early warning before too much damage has been inflicted. This is because a water meter would show excessive water usage in your bills and alert you to the problem. Here’s some useful information about detecting leaks in your home.
  • You can change your mind in the short term. If you have a meter installed, and find that you don’t save money, you can change your mind and switch back – but only within the first 2 years. After that, you’re stuck with it regardless of how your usage changes.

Reasons not to switch to a water meter

The following are reasons you may be better sticking with a non-metered supply:

  • High volume water usage. Obviously if you do use a lot of water then it makes no sense to switch. Do the calculator to see if it’s worth switching but generally speaking if you have more people than bedrooms and use lots of water intensive appliances (washing machine/dishwasher etc) then a fixed fee will be better for you.
  • You wouldn’t be paying for leaks. While having a meter can be useful for detecting leaks (see reasons to switch), you would of course be paying for all that water that is lost.
  • Fixed fees mean no surprises. Non-metered supply costs the same every month so there are no surprises or seasonal fluctuations. You know upfront for the year exactly what you will pay when you get your bill so you can budget for it.
  • You can’t change your mind in the long term. As stated above, you can only change your mind within the first 2 years of having a meter installed. Consider future changes to circumstances: if you decided to get one based on there only being 2 of you but then go on to have a family, a water meter may no longer meet your needs.
  • It could affect future sale of the property. Think about whether you may sell the property and the implications of having a water meter installed. If it’s a family-sized home, future buyers may be put off by the potential cost of having a water meter as you can’t switch to non-metered supply if the property already has a meter installed when you buy it.

We hope that this gives you more insight into water meters and their suitability for you. There is more information in this guide from Yorkshire Water that may also be helpful.

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