Grandpa Webb's blog

Thursday, 07 March 2013

Tick tick – don’t panic! It’s only the water meter

Find out more about Grandpa WebbWe have just acquired a water meter. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t easy, but it’s here, hidden inside a kitchen cupboard.

It had to be fitted inside the house because we share our water supply with the people next door – something we both discovered by accident when a plumber turned the water off at the pavement.

I rang the water company and asked whether I should have had my own personal water supply. It seems that semi-detached houses like ours often share, but if I felt strongly enough, I could pay and have my own personal pipe. I decided I didn’t feel strongly enough.

Then came a little sales pitch. “By the way, do you have a water meter?” It turns out that if your house has more bedrooms than people living in it (in our case, four and two respectively), your water will generally cost less if you fit a meter, which in England is supplied and fitted free. A man could call and do an assessment, they said. So I booked an assessment. After all, he was only going to look. Wasn’t he?

The man came, inspected our kitchen cupboard and said that it was an excellent place for a meter. In fact, just by the merest chance, he had one with him and could fit it right now.

An hour later we had a meter in the cupboard. It has an eight-digit readout on the end and is fitted with remote reading technology which enables it to be read from outside the house. Clever stuff.

It ticks.The new water meter in the heavily modified tray cupboard. Prior to the meter’s arrival there had been some discussion about how big it would be. Grandma said it would take up lots of space in her tray cupboard, I said it would be so small you would hardly notice it. Regrettably grandma was right. The meter is a bulky metal casting, almost a foot long with its pipe-work, and takes up a fair bit of tray space.

I remodelled the compartments inside the cupboard to accept a few fewer trays (it only took me two days). How many trays do we need? We had enough trays for four, and now there are only two of us.

They don’t tell you this in advance, but our water meter ticks. Each time someone flushes the toilet, it ticks away in the tray cupboard, reminding listeners of how much water is going down the drain.

Already water saving measures are in place. We don’t overfill the kettle and I have perfected a system of not running the tap while I brush my teeth, except for a quick burst at the end to wash the brush and rinse out.

The water company thinks the meter will save me money. After it was fitted, the company reviewed my payments. Give or take the odd penny I was paying £46.23 a month (for 10 months) before I had the meter, now it has cut my monthly direct debit payments to £21 (over 12 months) until October 2013. That’s an annual saving of more than £200.

How do they know how much water I will use? Well, they don’t. Future charges are calculated based on your past consumption and an estimate for a household of your size, my new bill says. They don’t know my past consumption because I didn’t have a meter then, so the estimate must be based on a household my size, and it seems a bit generous. I hope they know what they’re doing. I’ll know for sure in October 2013.

One saving grace with the meter is that if it doesn’t save you money, they’ll come and take it out, so if the monthly bill goes above £46.23 next October, they can have it back.

Actually I hope the meter stays. I'm not sure I can bear to remodel the tray compartments again.

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