Have you felt this blasted British weather? Unless waves of sunshine are dancing around where you live, this has been one miserable February here in northern Europe.
Currently the rain is threatening to shatter the windows. It feels like a dystopian sci-fi film out there, with black skies above, treacherous winds and even a spot of snow. Oh Lord.
Instead of getting too dramatic about the weather I’ve been reviewing my energy costs lately for myself and my brother. We live in a small terrace house that is well insulated but does have one major problem; the curse of the prepayment gas and electricity meters (insert dramatic music).
Generally our usage seems “normal”, but there is also no doubt that I am now paying more for energy then I have ever done. In comparison I’ve had a look over the costs of living at a previous address.
In 2012/13 I lived in a large, semi detached old house in Derby with four other students. This house was as draftee as a cave and pretty bitter during the winter, which here in England lasts around five months (I wish this were a joke, but it’s the truth).
The clear advantage of being one of five was with splitting the bill. We had quarterly bills from the energy provider Npower that ranged from £170 to a massive £545, so I’ve armed myself with a calculator to work it all out.
Bill 1) Equated to £220 – Shortly after we moved in, around the summer.
Bill 2) Equated to £480 – Around the time of late autumn.
Bill 3) Equated to £545 – After the winter period.
Bill 4) Equated to £270 – As we were moving out in June.
The total stands at £1,515. Divided by the five of us we paid £303 each, over eleven months up until July. Effectively I was paying £31 a month for both gas and electric. It was also in this period of 2012 that the cost of gas increased in England.
Now living with just one other person, my hippy-ish Beatles loving brother, there is a noticeable difference in what we pay. We have a prepayment for both gas and electric.
The gross average cost for our energy is around £30 a week, £20 on electric and £10 on gas. In the more pleasant summer months we barely have to buy gas as it’ll only be used to heat water.
In the winter weeks, or decades, it works out more like £40 a week with a minimum £20 spent on gas to keep our living room fire going in the evenings.
This is a lot. We also have to keep track on how much each of us takes our prepayment USB sticks to the shop. It adds up to an average of £120 per month, with about 70% of this being spent on electricity.
Using old receipts and in my own ‘special’ way I’ve worked it our spending on energy:
Receipts for August show that we spent £90 on electric for this month and only £25 for gas.
Receipts for January show that we spent £100 on electric for this month but as much as £70 on gas.
Over the whole year we stand to have paid roughly £1,600 on energy (ouch). So at £800 each it works out that we both spend around £67 each per month for all our usage. It’s a good thing this house is well insulated!
The difference between my monthly costs in my Derby student residence and my current house is a whopping £36 per month. Of course the costs are split between two, not five, and although we have fewer showers and do less cooking than five people it still don’t like paying more than double than I did as a student.
The frustrating thing is we cannot replace these prepayment meters with credit meters in order to acquire one of the cheaper tariffs on offer. Our landlord doesn’t want to go through the time consuming bother of getting the equipment physically replaced, to which there would be a cost for him.
The previous tenant had issues paying the energy bills. That is the reason why the landlord had the prepayment metres installed so any new tenants cannot land him in trouble with nagging energy companies. This is all fair enough and I can’t blame our landlord, who really is a nice chap and I’m sure he would help us if he could.
It would also take up to six weeks in total to change over to new equipment. It’s not just a simple case of changing provider. As well as time and inconvenience there are also credit checks done to see if the tenants can be trusted to pay their bills when they arrive. Seems a lot of bother, and since we don’t own the house it is not our decision to make anyway.
The fact is prepayment meters are a CON. They are generally provided to people who have low incomes like myself, so you can monitor your usage as you check your meter but you’ll always be paying more. It can feel as if you’re saving as the constant spending is reasonably low, a few pounds here and there, but it adds up and really put a dent in your monthly budget.
On tariffs we tend not to worry as much about our energy costs. Instead we have the advantage of blissful ignorance until the dreaded invoice from the supplier pierces its way through the letter box.
However, on prepaid energy £2 worth of electricity can quite easily go in a single day even if you haven’t used all the lights in house, heaters etc. Our gas fire has to be on when it’s most cold, and this can cost us £3 in one evening. Even when we turn it off for a period the temperature noticeably drops within seconds, so a blanket comes in handy.
We simply cannot live without heat and light. My brother and I have to try and be frugal about the energy we use but it is difficult when the cost is clearly high. It feels as though, regardless of the weather outside, we are paying more for energy than we should have to. Until I’m able to move house to something more cost effective we are stuck with this system.
Have you had the prepaid meter experience? If so, did it disrupt your spending/saving? Are you aware what you spend on energy annually? All insight would be very much welcome, thank you!