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How to reduce water bills

Tips on water savings

06 August 2020

According to Water UK, in 2020 the average water bill for UK households is expected to be £34.58 a month or £415 a year. Although based on Ofwat estimations, this figure is set to fall by as much as 20% in some areas over the next 5 years.

Rather than wait for water providers to reduce costs there are a number of things you can do to lower your outgoings. We’ve put together a list of cost-cutting ideas so you can figure out how to reduce water bills, giving you a number of ways to potentially save money and be more energy efficient around the home.

    1. Install a water meter

The first tip on how to reduce water bills is to install a water meter. They work in a similar way to a gas or electric meter as you are only charged for the water you use, rather than an estimated amount for the whole year. The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) say that as many as 40% of people in the UK currently have a water meter installed in their home. They also estimate you could save anywhere between £50 and £100, potentially more, depending on your usage levels.

    2. Fix leaks and dripping tap

You can soon become accustomed to a dripping tap at home, an irritation that fades into the background and is quickly forgotten. However, you may not realise that every drop of water into the sink or bath is adding to your water bill. While it may seem like a hassle and expense paying for a plumber to come and visit, in the long run it is likely to save you money. This also applies to any leaks you may currently have around the home – have these fixed as soon as possible to avoid adding unnecessary costs to your bills every month.

    3. Cut down on washing machine usage

Not only are you helping the environment by using the washing machine less frequently by lowering energy consumption, it’s also a great solution for anyone wondering how to save on water bills. We all get into habits and routines that can be difficult to break, but reducing the number of washes by increasing the wash loads will have a very positive effect on the amount of money you pay.

Most modern machines will have a half load button, although this is still likely to use over half the amount found in a full load, so you can still fill up the drum. Washing powders and detergents that support the use of 30°C temperatures will enable you to mix most light and dark pieces of clothing together. New dark clothes should be washed separately for a while as the dye needs to run out of the material before they can be mixed in with lighter colours.   

    4. Take showers instead of baths

A larger proportion of your household’s water usage is accounted for by washing, bathing and brushing your teeth. In just 60 seconds a running tap will release up to 6 litres of water. Some people prefer to step into a bath every day instead of a shower, although this is likely to use up more water and increase water bills.

Most baths can hold up to 80 litres of water, while a conventional electric shower will get through about 62 litres during an 8-minute ablution. This costs around 30p in terms of monetary value and these small incremental differences will really be felt across the course of the year. However, be wary of power showers as they can more than double the amount of water used and the costs along with it.

    5. Be careful what you put in the toilet

The power and reliability of toilets often convinces us we can dump almost anything down there to flush away. However, instead of just flushing the toilet for human wastage, using it to get rid of tissues, face wipes and other items means far more water is being wasted than needed. Not only that, but the thicker the material, the more likely it is to clog up the system potentially creating other problems that may require you to hire a professional plumber to fix it. That will also add to your inconvenience and create another expense you could do without.

    6. Cut down on toilet flushing

This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. On average, older toilet systems can use as much as 13 litres of water every time the button is pressed. With that in mind, here are two tips on how to lower water bills by cutting down on flushing. Firstly, you can reduce the number of times the toilet is flushed. The instinct is to flush every time you go to the toilet but it is not always a requirement. Urine can be left in the bowl, while faeces should be flushed away. Some studies say that flushing with the toilet lid open can even be more unhygienic (due to toilet plume). The second suggestion is to put a brick in the cistern to reduce the amount of water flushed which will have no effect on pressure levels.

    7. Brush your teeth without running water

Many people tend to leave the tap running while brushing their teeth, without realising this could be adding to their water bills. It’s usually a time-saving instinct so the toothbrush can be instantly washed after brushing has finished, but we can all afford to lose the one second it takes to turn the tap back on – especially as it could save you a lot of money over the course of a year.

    8. Wash up using a bowl

Instead of using a running tap to wash up dishes (if you do not own a dishwasher) then using a washing up bowl is a far more economical option. Because they are made to be small enough to fit inside a sink this means you will use less water when washing up. To wash away soap suds from your dishes so they can dry, you can do this outside of the bowl without having to immerse it back into the water you have just used to clean it.

    9. Invest in a dishwasher

If you can afford to buy a dishwasher this will make a big difference to the amount of water used to clean your dishes. Models have become increasingly energy efficient in recent times, minimising the amount of water needed to affectively clean dishes without comprising on performance levels.

Apply the same principle to the dishwasher as you would to the washing machine by only turning it on once full. Otherwise you are likely to end up using more water than if you had washed the dishes in the sink. While the initial financial cost of a dishwasher may prove to be high and counter-intuitive to saving money, when you count the reduced costs over a number of months and years you will usually end up saving money in the long run.

    10. Use water-saving technology

The use of gadgets is a great answer to the question of how to lower your water bill. You can use things such as:

  • Dual flush toilets: Rather than use up to 13 litres in an old toilet during a flush, dual systems can reduce this down to 4 or 6 litres which help the environment and save you money.
  • Modern showerheads: Showerheads control the water flow and can help reduce the amount of water used per shower. There are a range of new models available and they are not costly to purchase. You can still enjoy a hot, powerful shower while still cutting down on the amount of water used.
  • Cistern displacement devices: If putting a brick in the cistern isn’t something you are comfortable with (see point 6), cistern displacement systems offer a modern alternative. Most water suppliers provide this and it will save litres of water over the course of any given day.

FAQs

Should I use all of these tips?

These are just some suggestions on how to reduce water bills and not different methods will work for different households. For example, sometimes it isn’t practical to cut down on washing machine use or to install a water meter. If possible, use as many of these ideas as possible as they will help you save money, but try out one or two at a time so you can see what works best for you.

How are water bills calculated?

If you do not own a smart meter, your water bill will be calculated using ‘rateable’ method. This is based on your local authority’s assessment of the rental value of your home. However, this original estimation took place between 1973 and 1990 and there is unfortunately no way to lodge an appeal to have it changed. It’s the reason why the amount of water you use may bear no relation to the size of your bill each month. This is great for homeowners who use more than they pay for, while for those who do not a meter could be a better option.

How much can I save using these tips?

Our ten tips on how to reduce your water bill will encourage more efficient use of water around the home, which can also lower costs. How much you can save will depend on the amount of water you can cut out without it drastically affecting your day-to-day life. As we mentioned at the start of the article, experts estimate savings could be as high as £100 a year, although this figure will vary. If you are considering installing a water meter, use the Consumer Council for Water calculator to see if it will help you save money.

Good to know

Before you make the final decision to switch over to a water meter, take the following into consideration:

Make sure the savings are worthwhile

If you are only saving a small amount each month, it may not be worth making the change. Fixed water bills allow you to budget more accurately each month which can be useful for those who like to plan their monthly expenditure. Usage levels also change over time, so if using a water meter only offers minimal savings it may prove more cost-effective to stick with monthly bills.

Use a trial run

If you switch to a water meter it is possible to return to standard bills within a 12-month period. You may also have the option to do this after 30 days once you have received a second measured bill. However, this will not be possible if you move into a new property that already has a meter installed.

The house price effect

Some people believe the presence of a water meter can have a negative effect on a property’s sale price. However, this isn’t always the case, and while there may be a small chance it could be true it is extremely rare. If you are planning on selling and are worried this may affect you, then refrain from installing a water meter, just in case. However, if you have no plans to move and installing a meter offers significant savings then proceed with your original plan.

High water usage

Homes that use large amounts of water for non-necessities such as ultra-power showers, sprinkler systems and swimming pools, or that are located in a water-stressed area, may have a water meter automatically installed by the local authority.

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