Are water meters a good idea?
Published 16 February 2015
Having a water meter fitted can save some people money, but not all. Find out if you could save money with our handy guide.
The idea of only paying for what you use is one that everybody loves. After all, who wants to pay for something they’re not using? But that’s, ‘probably’, exactly what you’re doing if you’re still paying water rates. We say ‘probably’ because it’s not true in all cases – it really depends on the size of your family and how you use your water.
And if you live in Northern Ireland, whilst this may not apply to you at the present time, it’s likely that next year will see the reintroduction of water charges, so why not prepare yourself now?
A good rule of thumb, courtesy of MoneySavingExpert, is if you have more bedrooms than people in your house, it’s worth looking at having a meter fitted. If that’s you, the next step is to find out how much you might save with a water usage calculator.
The number of people in your household
If there are lots of people living in your house, you should consider staying on a rated amount, as your usage is likely to be high. For example, a family of five, with school uniforms and work clothes to wash, baths, showers and cleaning of teeth to be done each morning, not to mention the number of toilet flushes throughout the day, will add up to many, many litres of water each day.
If, however, there are only two of you in the house, moving onto a water meter could be much better. How much you save will depend on how you use the water. Obviously, if you decide to take an hour long shower every day, your bills will add up pretty quickly.
How bothered are you about saving or recycling water?
If you’re prepared to make a little bit of effort, you can bring down the cost of water even lower (and do your bit to be green too!), making your water meter doubly worth it. In fact, one of the reasons why water meters were introduced in the first place was to help people reduce the amount of water they use. This became quite important when the country suffered a number of severe droughts a few years back and water was restricted. And it works, as the Environment Agency’s figures show that households with a water meter use, on average, 10-15% less water!
So what can you do? Lots is the answer. Take, for example, your bathroom. You could invest in a water recycling shower, which can give both water and energy savings over 70% per year. They’re not cheap, because the technology is so new, but if they work as efficiently as they’re supposed to, they should make back what you paid in no time.
If that’s not an option, and you have a shower over the bath, the easiest way to recycle water is to leave the plug in. Now you just need to reuse that water for other things, such as watering your garden, as a pre-rinse when washing your car or to flush your toilet.
And talking of flushing your toilet – don’t do it so often! This idea seems to give people palpitations, but sticking to the saying ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down’ can save you loads. According to Waterwise, the average toilet uses 13 litres of water per flush – that’s fresh, clean drinking standard water going straight into the sewerage system! If you’ve got a dual flush toilet, your usage will be slightly less, on average 4-6 litres per flush, but that’s still more than you’ll use if you recycle your grey water.
Another way to save is to use a cistern displacement device, which is just a fancy name for a bag that you place in your toilet cistern that reduces the amount of water it can fill up with. Pretty much all water suppliers in the UK give these for free, but all you really need is an old plastic bottle filled with water, with the lid screwed on tightly.
Turn your taps off! This may seem like common sense, but switching off your taps when you’re cleaning your teeth, for example, can save litres. The same goes for when you’re washing your hands or rinsing the pots.
And finally, do you have any dripping taps? If you do, get them fixed right now! It’s simple and cheap to do and will save you money.
That’s five water-saving ideas right there! If you need more, waterwises’ Water Saving Tips is a great place to start.
So, is a water meter right for you? The answer could be yes, especially if you’re prepared to make a little effort. In any case, if you decide it’s not, you can switch back to a fixed fee, as long as you do it within 13 months of have the meter fitted. This allows you to monitor your usage and how much you’ve been paying and decide if it works for you.