Generally a house that has an energy rating of D or above, your utilities allowance should cover your costs. There is a way you can make money off of this and that is by conserving energy and keeping your costs low.
Utilities are paid either monthly or quarterly depending upon the company. Sometimes they charge you an average amount which can mean you end up with a credit. You can choose to pay by direct debit (which is often cheaper) or you can pay by check when the bill arrives. That is a decision you will need to make.
The utilities are not shut off when people move out, so you don't have to rush to get them setup before you move in. Just make sure you make a note of the readings on your move-in date. It is against the law for them to shut off the water to the house. You should be told who is your energy provider by the landlord or the estate agent when you move in. To find out your gas supplier, call 0870 608 1524. To find out your electricity supplier, go here.
Make sure to put any accounts such as your gas and electric in both your names if you are married. The reason for this is if your name is not on the account, you will not be able to do any changes, this applies to all accounts. So if your spouse is deployed, you will not able to do anything on his behalf. If the water is not metered, a landlord cannot have you pay the water bill. You can also get a water hippo to put in the cistern of the toilet to save up to 3 liters of water.[i] These can often come free from your water company.
If your appliance has this range, then it will only need a plug adapter. If not, you will have to run it on a transformer.
The voltage in U.K. homes is at 240 volts, not 110 volts as in America. You will damage your appliances if it cannot handle the current. However, many appliances do automatically transform for the voltage (just look on the back it tells you the voltage range). In this case, you will only need an adapter plug. Otherwise you will need a transformer which you will be issued from the base. The base will issue you transformers based on your assignment (unaccompanied/accompanied).
Remember that many things are more expense here including energy. The average cost in the U.S. for kilo watts (kwh) per hour is $0.08 and in the UK, it is $0.24. You can get an energy reader free from some utility companies so that you can keep an eye out on your energy usage. The U.K. Government is pushing to have smart meter in every U.K. household by 2020 so that you will know exactly what to expect when your energy bill arrives.[ii]
It doesn't happen very often but we do get hot weather in the UK. The heat mixed with the humidity gets Americans pining for their air conditioners but it’s a luxury over here and in the rest of Europe. They recommend that if you have one, bring it with you but remember that they will need to use a transformer which will rack up your energy bills. Another note is that U.K. windows do not have screens in them.
[i] Hippo, “Save Water With Hippo,” accessed June 7, 2013, http://www.hippo-the-watersaver.co.uk/
[ii] U Switch, “Smart Meters Explained,” accessed June 26, 2013, http://www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/guides/smart-meters-explained/
Why the EPC rating is important
A lot of people are looking for the perfect house with the look that they are after. I suggest that you get a house that suits your needs as you are only here temporarily. Many people like to look at houses with a view as if they are buying a house but this can be a very costly mistake.
Outside of the house that will suit your needs (but may not be what you have dreamt you will be living in since you heard you were going to be living the UK), you MUST look at the Energy Performance Certification (EPC) rating. This is going to tell you how much running the house will cost you, this is how you can save money on energy because it costs 3 times as much as in the US.
Any house that is sold or rented out must have an EPC. Most advertisements will have the rating of the house in them. The ratings go from A to G. A is the most efficient and G is the worst. The average one is D/E and if you are in the military, your utility allowance should cover a home with this rating.Hereis an example of what an EPC looks like. If it does not have it in the advertisement, I would be weary of the property and ask to get a copy of it before viewing.
One thing to look for in a house,alwaysgo for double glazing. I have lived in a house for the last 4 years that did not have it in the bedrooms and they were installed in the spring of the last year, you can feel the difference now but just imagine the difference it would make in the winter- we were sleeping under 4 blankets! Please see the video below to see the impact that this can have.
Another thing to think about is other heating elements. Fireplaces are another way to heat your home. Just be sure to only use coal in a coal one and wood in a wood one. Wood burners are more energy efficient than coal burning ones. If you do get other heating elements like space heaters, make sure that they have timers on them and do not leave them running when you are not home. Do not heat rooms you do not use.
You can also look in the report to see the suggestions made to increase the EPC rating, therefore saving you money on your utilities. Things like replacing regular lightbulbs with energy saving lightbulbs you can do yourself. Although they are more expensive than regular ones definitely save you money in the long run. Other things like increasing the loft insulation or having the hot water cylinder insulated could be a good negotiating point especially if you are paying above the asking price.
As Americans, we like to have our homes very warm but this can cost an arm and a leg over here. So dress warmly in the cold times and put a blanket over you when watching TV. This is why I think that you should choose a home with a better EPC rating almost anything else. You will feel the difference in your bones (the humidity makes the chill way different here) and you will feel it in your wallet.
Before getting a cell phone, think about how you are going to use it. If it is your only phone, pay as you go could cost you a fortune where a contract could save you money. Many people find that smartphones are a great thing to have when they are on deployments and traveling in the U.K. and Europe because you can access the internet if there is a Wi-Fi connection available and with things like Facetime and Skype it can make the distance not seem as far and the time flies by. Also wait to get a contract after you get your home because some mobile carrieres may serve your area better.
You will have to have a landline in order to have internet. In the UK, phone lines are rented and so you are charged for every phone call that you make even if it is a local call. Try to find a local number when calling 0870 and 0800 numbers; this will also save you money.
Not all areas have access to gas lines so some homes have oil. If you are looking for a bigger home, it is more than likely going to be further away and which makes it more likely to have oil. It is important to get a house with a good energy rating if it is going to use oil. Oil does not have to be expensive; you just need to watch your usage as you should with electricity and gas. If you get a house with oil, try to negotiate that the tank be filled when you move in and you will leave it the same way when you leave, like a rental car. This can save you the upfront costs of filling the tank when you already have many other moving costs. You can order your oil from Boiler Juice, up to ten days ahead in order to get the cheapest price. Also get your tank filled in the summer when the prices are low. Make sure that you do not let your tank go completely empty because you may then require a technician to come service it. If you are in a bind, go to Brooks in Burwell, to fill up a couple of jerry cans. Also changing the way you heat your house can help too.
You need to wait until you get a home before you consider internet. You have to have a phone line in order to get your internet setup. Check out this website to see who the best provider is in your area. You will get faster internet speeds in larger cities and towns than you will in homes in the country.
Line drying my clothes in the garden
I know the stigma in the States about line drying clothes but energy is very expensive here so the British and European traditionally dry their clothes on clothes horses, in the airing cupboard (where your hot water heater is) or lines in their garden (like I do in the picture). I have not had dryer since I have moved to the UK so it is possible to live this way! This is not only money saving but it is saving the environment too.
Also they tend to wash their clothes if they are dirty not because they have been worn, if that makes sense. Not only does washing your clothes frequently break them down but sometimes it is unnecessary.
We just put our clothes in the washer when dirty and run it when it is full. I wash everything on a the lowest setting so I don't have to worry about colors running. You have to keep up with the laundry instead of doing it on one day, do it as needed.
I found this great article about how to reduce your washing, food for thought!
As it starts to get cold, I thought I would help you with a few ideas to keep the heating bills low.
If you have a fireplace, use it.
Make sure to set your timers on for your heating- usually an hour in the morning and a couple hours in the night. Don't heat the house when no one is home!
Dress in layers in the winter time! This means wearing sweaters inside, tights/thermals under clothes, thick socks and fuzzy slippers. Also why not cuddle on the couch with a blanket.
Drink warm liquids like tea, coffee and of course hot cocoa!
Don't heat rooms you aren't using. Close off doors to them and turn the radiators down.
Close your curtains to stop heat escaping.
Don't block your radiators with furniture, it keeps the rooms from heating up.
Open the internal doors to sunny rooms during the day and close off at night.
Plastic up windows to reduce drafts or hang blankets.
Also here are some tips to keep your other utility bills down:
Turn off electric items at the socket.
Turn off the transformers, they use a huge amount of energy.
Turn off the computers when you are finished with them.
Don't run the washer/dryer at night when it is more expensive unless you are on a tariff where it is cheaper at night.
Only boil the amount of water you need.
You can also get a monitor from most utility companies to see when you use the most.
Use energy saving light bulbs.
Dry your clothes on a clothesline and in the winter on the radiators or clothing trees.
Wash clothes on the lowest setting.
Also sometimes you may need to prove your residency and utility bills can be used to do this.
Shop around for your utilities, a good website to find the best deal is Which?