Here are some pointers on utilities - how to make sure you are paying the right amount, saving money and avoiding future problems.
Electricity and Gas
- Take meter readings
- Contact your supplier
- Keep an eye on usage
- Energy efficiency
- Beware of condensation
- Consider switching supplier
- Problems with billing
- Help with bills
- Other Utilities
- Further information
In purpose built student accommodation and University halls, the cost of energy and broadband are typiclly included within your monthly rent. Within private accommoodation, It is highly likely that you will have to pay for all the utilities you use throughout your tenancy period separately.
If you’re unsure whether the cost of your utilities is included within your monthly rent payments, check your tenancy agreement or speak to your landlord. Section 27 of the Private Residential Tenancy Agreement (the lease you are likely to have) should lay out your obligations in relation to electricity, gas and broadband, often including who the suppliers of each are.
Assuming that you do have to pay your utility bills separately, here are some suggestions on how to make sure you are paying the correct amount, save money and avoid future problems:
Electricity and Gas
Take meter readings
Always take a meter reading as soon as you move in - even if you have a Smart Meter (they don’t always work as they should). You should try and take meter readings each month, allowing you to keep an eye on the amount of energy you use. You can refer to this guide on how to read your meters. Doing this will allow you to pinpoint big changes in usage and alert you to potential problems (before they spiral out of control and lead to large future bills). If you have difficulty locating your meters, contact your letting agent or landlord.
Without actual readings, your energy supplier guesses how much you pay each money via direct debit. Updating them with proper readings helps them calculate what you should pay more accurately. If you don’t do this, you may be paying too much each month, or indeed too little (which will lead to a large bill when they finally do get a proper reading from you).
Contact your supplier
Contact your electricity and gas suppliers as soon as you move in. You can find out who your gas supplier is via this tool and electricity supplier by filling out this form.
Search online for the name of your company along with ‘change of tenancy’ to get direct contact into the team who will set up your account (a time-saver). You will be asked to provide the exact date you moved in, meter readings, names of all the tenants living at the property and possibly a copy of your tenancy agreement.
It is important that you do this, otherwise you may receive debt collection follow-ups for previous tenant's bills and your own bill may not be correct - starting from the wrong date to the wrong reading.
Keep an eye on your usage
As you may just have moved into your first new property, you may understandably not have much knowledge as to what appliances use the most and least electricity or gas. A general rule with electricity is that anything that heats generally cost the most. You can use this helpful calculator to understand how much appliances in your property generally cost to use.
Meters often have what they call a 'pulse light', which essentially blinks faster the more energy you use. If you only have lights and a television on it will blink slowly. Turn on your electric hob or heater and you will see the difference this makes. Through trial and error with this, it might help you identify what is costing the most in your property.
If you have gas heating, you will find that your electricity usage is reasonably consistent throughout the year. If you have plug-in electric heating or electric storage heating though, costs can really spiral in the Winter. Be especially careful with plug-in electric heating as this tends to be the most expensive.
As of October 2022 the average price of 1kWh (kilowatt per hour) of electricity is 34p. You can use this as a guide to make rough calculations as to what an appliance may actually be costing you. Every electrical appliance will have a kWh rating on it. If your plug-in electric heater has a rating of 1kWh, then this means that for every 1 hour that this heater is on, it will use 1kWh of electricity or roughly 34p.
Have a look at the table underneath for a better sense of what electrical appliances cost.
It is always a helpful practice to try and take meter readings each month, allowing you to keep an eye on the amount of energy you use. Doing this will allow you to pinpoint big changes in usage and alert you to potential problems, before they spiral out of control and lead to very large future bills.
For gas heating, this video covers the basics on how you should be setting your room and radiator thermostats correctly.
This website will give you some tips on how you can potentially reduce your overall energy consumption, leading to lower and more manageable bills. For tips on keeping warm in Winter, have a look at our ‘Warm, Healthy & Affordable‘ blog post.
Beware of condensation
As a consequence of keeping windows shut and not using heating as much due to spiralling costs, beware of condensation problems developing in your home. If water generated through drying clothes on radiators, cooking or breathing builds up in your home and has nowhere to go, this will inevitably lead to problems with mould inside the property. Speak to your landlord if you have no extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom and have a look at this guide from the energy savings trust on steps you can take to prevent and minimise this happening.
Consider switching supplier
**Update May 2023**
There has been lots of information and coverage in the media in the last year with regards to the Ofgem Energy Price Cap and the UK Government's Energy Price Guarantee. Our advice for much of that period was it would not be in your best interests to switch energy supplier as you may end up paying more.
Martin Lewis's Money Saving Expert website has some further information on the difference between the price cap and the price guarantee and more details on what you should be paying for your energy at the moment.
As the situation on energy prices has now somewhat stabilised it may now be possible for you to save money by switching to a new supplier. If you do want to switch, follow the guidance underneath.
Check to make sure that you are not prohibited by your tenancy agreement from switching suppliers. If you don’t have to stick with the previous energy supplier, you may find you can save money by switching to a different provider or a cheaper tariff with your current supplier.
If you have a prepayment meter and would like to change this to a standard meter, you will have to check first that this is okay with your landlord. In addition, the energy supplier may require a deposit from you if you are changing to a standard meter and have not had an account with them before. Make sure you ask about this as the cost of a deposit varies.
To find out if you can save any money on your bills, try price comparison websites such as USwitch, Compare the Market, GoCompare, or MoneySupermarket.
Also, please see the MoneySavingExpert site for more information on how to get cheaper tariffs.
Problems with billing
This advice page has useful information on what you can do If you are having problems with incorrect billing. If you are really struggling with your supplier and need some help and assistance, you can get this via the Citizens Advice consumer helpine. The Advice Centre can also help with this, so please do contact us if you are having difficulties.
Help with bills
Again, if you are struggling to pay your bills please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpine, who can give you some initial guidance on what your options are. Please also keep in mind that the University has a Financial Aid team who administer both the Discretionary and Hardship funds to help students who are struggling financially.
You may also be asked to pay your share of other bills including broadband or a landline telephone line. Read the terms and conditions of your contract with the prospective provider carefully before agreeing to it, and monitor any bills and usage figures you get throughout the contract period. If you think you can get a better deal elsewhere, check to see if you are allowed to switch to a different provider.
For more information on dealing with utilities bills, including how to ensure that all flatmates are named on the bill to help share the costs fairly among your flatmates. Please see our Consumer Debt and Arrears page.