A Guide to Utilities for First-Time Homeowners

You’ve saved for the deposit, made the offer, exchanged the contracts, picked up the keys. Finally, you’re on the first rung of the housing ladder—surrounded by boxes and ambitious plans for DIY.

The average Briton purchasing his or her first home is now 30, so it’s unlikely you’re a novice at utilities. You probably have years of negotiating the energy bills for rented accommodation and may have become a whizz at sleuthing out the cheapest fixed-rate energy tariffs on comparison sites. But arranging the utilities when you move into a property you own is a little different than doing so at the start of a tenancy. Additionally, as the owner of the property, you’ll be able to undertake improvements to increase the energy efficiency of your property, including installing double-glazed windows and insulation and investing in appliances with better energy ratings.

When You Move In

Unless the home you’re purchasing has been unoccupied for a long period of time, it will be connected to energy and water supplies when you move in. You’ll be able to make a cup of tea, or at least shower after dragging all those boxes through the front door.

Energy

The fuel for your new home will be provided by the supplier chosen by the previous occupant of the home or, if you’ve moved into a new-build, the supplier selected by the developer. You’ll be on an expensive standard tariff with this energy supplier, however, and you’ll want to switch tariff after you move in. To do so, follow these steps:

Locate your meters: Electricity and gas meters are generally stored in the kitchen, in the hall, or in an outside meter box. If you’ve purchased a flat in a block, the meters for all flats may be located in a central cupboard. if you’re struggling to locate the meters, the previous owner of the property or the estate agent should be able to direct you. If you’ve purchased new-build property, the developer should be able to provide you with this information.

Contact the current supplier: You should be able to obtain information about the current energy supplier of the property from the previous occupant, the estate agent, or the developer. If you can’t, to find out your gas supplier, contact the gas meter helpline number on 870 608 1524, and to determine your electricity supplier, contact your local electricity distribution company and ask to speak to their meter point administration service (MPAS) department. The same supplier may provide both the gas and electricity for the property.

Give them a meter reading: When you determine the current supplier of the property, contact them and provide a meter reading as soon as possible so you don’t end up charged for the previous resident’s energy use.

Pick a new supplier: Use an energy comparison site to find the cheapest quotes for your property and your region. If you’re moving from elsewhere, you might not be familiar with the suppliers operating in your new area and the rates they’re charging. A comparison engine can familiarise you with the market quickly. You’ll be asked to provide an estimate of your home’s energy consumption, which can be tricky if you’ve never received an energy bill for that property. An online calculator can help you generate an estimate based on the size of the property and its heating and appliances. When you select a new tariff, you won’t have to contact the old supplier of the property to notify them. Your new chosen provider will do so and arrange the handover.

Pay the final bill: It generally takes 21 days for an energy switchover to be completed, so you’ll face one final bill from the old supplier of the property that you’ll have to pay.

Water
Your water will be supplied by the regional supplier; you’ll pay either a flat rate or have a meter that measures your water consumption. Contact the supplier when you move in to set up an account and, if you have a water meter, provide them with a reading.

Saving Money on Utilities as a Homeowner

As a tenant, you were limited in the improvements you could make to your residence to upgrade its energy efficiency and curb your bills. At the most, maybe you swapped lightbulbs for kilowatt-saving LED ones. But as a homeowner, you can make a number of investments in your property that can dramatically boast its efficiency. Many of these improvements will also add value to your property if you ever sell it, especially as buyers become more conscious of energy bills and environmental impact.

Upgrade your boiler: Boilers have energy efficiency ratings from A to G. Having an inefficient boiler could be adding as much as £200 a year to your energy bills. A new A-rated boiler is a big investment but one that will pay off over several years, and because boilers account for 60% of carbon emissions in gas-heated households, also dramatically reduce your household’s impact on the environment.

Choose energy efficient appliances: Choose A++ rated appliances and you could notch big savings. Consumer magazine Which? discovered that the difference between running the most and least expensive fridge-freezers on the market is as much as £85 a year, for example.

Insulate your home: Two thirds of our energy use goes toward heating our spaces, but if your home isn’t properly insulated, you could be losing a third or more of that cost right through your walls and roof. The Energy Savings Trust estimates that cavity wall insulation, costing £720 to install, can save you between £70 and £250 a year on your energy bills, depending on your home, while loft insulation, costing up to £400, can trim £120 to £220 from your annual energy expenditure.

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