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A first time buyers guide to utility bills

On moving day you’ll be feeling a whole range of different emotions as you finally have the keys to your home. You’ll probably be focused on unpacking boxes and setting up furniture but if you can, you should try to remember to take five minutes out of your day to take gas and electricity meter readings.

Doing so will allow you to provide the current gas and electricity supplier/s with accurate readings later, preventing you from having to pay for gas and electricity used by the previous owners.

Who is my supplier?

If you’re buying a new build home then your developer should provide this information, but if not you can call the Meter Point Administration Service on 0870 608 1524 to get the details of your gas supplier.

You can also use the Energy Networks Association postcode search tool to find out who your local electricity distribution company is, if you don’t know it already.

If you contact them they will be able to tell you which company supplies your electricity.

Do I need to stay with the same suppliers?

There is no reason why you have to stay with the same gas and electricity suppliers.

You’ve probably been placed on their standard tariff, which could mean that you’re paying more than you need to.

You can shop around for a better deal by using the uSwitch website.

They arrange everything for you so you won’t need to contact your existing suppliers if you decide to switch.

On the official switch day, you’d need to take final readings, for your existing suppliers and wait for the final bills to arrive through the post.

How often do I have to pay my utility bills?

You can choose whether you want to pay monthly or quarterly. If you decide to pay by direct debit your supplier will estimate how much energy you'll use over the year and divide this into 12 equal monthly instalments. This is the most popular way to pay, and you’ll usually get a better price using this method.

If you’d rather pay by quarterly variable direct debit you can but this may make budgeting harder, which is something to bear in mind. Most people find a smaller, regular monthly payment easier to manage.

Alternatively, you can select to pay in receipt of a bill which means that you typically have 14 days to pay by cash, card or cheque once you receive your quarterly bill. The amount you pay depends on how much you’ve used over the previous three months. 

How do I take an electricity meter reading?

There are three main types of electricity meters.

Digital meter

To read a digital meter, you should write down the bold black numbers from left to right, ignoring any numbers in red or in a red box. Some electricity meters have two rows of numbers and if this is the case with your meter, you’ll need to write down both lines, missing out any numbers in red or in a red box.

Electronic meter

If you have an electronic meter there are a few different types and you may have to press a button to get the reading to show or it might display automatically. 

You’ll need to make a note of the numbers that are displayed, discounting those in red or a red box.

Dial meter

This type of meter has several clock-style dials. It is the hardest of the three types to read.

It’s important that you discount any large dials, any marked with the number 100 and any red dials. You need to read the dials from left to right.

The dials turn in alternate directions, so if one turns clockwise the next will turn anti-clockwise.

If the pointer is pointing between two numbers you need to write down the lower number. The exception to the rule is if it’s between 9 and 0, you should record 9 in this case.

If the pointer is pointing directly at a number you should check the next dial before you record it down.

If the next dial is between 0 and 1, you can write down the previous dial’s number. 

If the next dial is between 9 and 0 you need to take one off the previous dial’s number and write that down. So, if the dial had been 5 it would become 4.

If you get confused, give your home’s electricity supplier a ring and they should be able to talk you through it. 

How do I take a gas meter reading?

There are two types of gas meter, a gas dial meter and a gas digital meter.

Digital meter

Reading a gas digital meter is straight forward. You need to discount any numbers that are after the decimal point and any that are red. Record them from left to right. 

Dial meter

This type of meter has several clock-style dials.

You must discount any large dials, any that are marked 100 or red. 

It functions, and should be read, in exactly the same way as a dial meter for electricity. 

How often do I need to read my meters?

Your supplier should tell you how often you need to report your meter readings, and they may send reminders or notifications when they want to hear from you. 

This is so they can ensure your bill reflects their estimations and that you’re not paying too much or too little.

At the very least, it’s recommended that you read your meters and report back to your supplier every quarter (three months). 

Managing accounts online

You may feel that the best way to keep on top of your bills and record your readings is online. All utility providers will offer some form of online service, with a dedicated area for you to manage your account from.

When you take up or take over the service, you may be asked whether you’d like to take up digital rather than paper billing. 

Some suppliers may even bill you digitally as standard. You may want to consider which option suits you best. 

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