This complete guide explains how to connect to UK utilities and pay your utility bills, plus includes a list of water, electricity and gas utility companies in the UK.
With a wide array of utility companies in the UK, connecting your house to water, electricity and gas in the UK can seem overwhelming at first after moving to the UK, especially if you are trying to connect UK internet, TV and a landline phone at the same time. There are many discount deals and combined UK utility packages to choose from, but finding the UK utility companies that cost less in the long run requires research into the fine print. However, besides comparing water, electricity and gas companies in the UK, the connection process is relatively straightforward.
If you are renting property in the UK, your rental agent or landlord may be able to arrange your UK utilities. Most homes in the UK are already connected to water, electricity and gas, however, this is not guaranteed in every situation. If you are buying property in the UK, you will need to arrange your own utilities in the UK.
This guide provides all the information you need for connecting to UK utilities including:
- Electricity in the UK
- Electricity companies in the UK
- UK electricity voltage and power plugs
- UK power cuts
- Water in the UK
- Water quality
- Gas in the UK
- Paying utility bills in the UK
- Rubbish collection and disposal in the UK
- Setting up home: furnishings and DIY
Connecting utilities in the UK is usually very straightforward and in many cases can be done online. There is a good chance your new home will already have gas, electricity and water connected. In a typical situation, your only responsibility is to transfer those services into your name and check the meter readings.
You are typically free to choose any UK utility provider you would like to use for gas and electricity, however, UK water utilities are generally limited to the one provider operating in your area. This guide from Citizens Advice provides an overview of how the UK utility system works.
In the majority of cases you will not need to contact the UK electricity board to get connected, especially if you are renting. However, you are expected to contact a UK electricity supplier to transfer electricity bills into your name to avoid billing confusion, although if renting your landlord may keep the bills in their name. If a property has been empty for some time, the utilities may have been disconnected; it’s important to check this and give enough time for the initial set up, otherwise you might be left without UK utilities when you arrive.
Normally the previous tenant or owner would have given the final meter readings to the utility companies, however, it is still important to take start readings to give to your chosen utility companies to ensure your bills are accurate. You are not required to stay with the same company as the previous tenant or property owner, so you can switch UK electricity companies at this time if you prefer.
To do that, follow these simple steps:
- Make a note of the current electricity meter reading. If you don’t you could be charged for power used by the previous occupants.
- Find out the names of the UK electricity companies servicing your area; online price comparison sites can help you find the best deal.
- In many cases, you can then set up your electricity account online.
- If you prefer to speak to someone, just give your chosen energy supplier in the UK a call and they will ask you for your latest meter reading so they can set up your account.
- You will subsequently receive your first bill, which may include a standing charge.
It is sometimes recommended to choose fixed UK electricity charges if available, as variable rates can sometimes be higher. You can also often get a better deal by combining your gas and electricity accounts with the same company. This is known as a dual fuel account.
Payment options can include fixed rates, capped rates and prepaid meters, with varying billing periods such as monthly, quarterly or yearly billing. Discounts are sometimes offered by switching to a different payment plan.
The UK energy market is privatised, allowing for many competitors and consequently a lot of deals to choose from. The largest electricity companies in the UK are referred to as the ‘big six’, representing around 90 percent of retail consumers between them and some three-quarters of British electricity generation. However, in recent years smaller and independent electricity companies in the UK are increasingly attracting customers, in some cases partly due to their commitments to renewable energy projects.
Largest gas and electricity companies in the UK
Smaller UK energy suppliers
- Better Energy
- Co-operative Energy (also in community renewable energy projects)
- First Utility
- Flow Energy (also the producers of an electricity-generating boiler and energy-saving devices)
- Good Energy
- Opus Energy
- Ovo Energy (awarded energy supplier of the year in 2017)
- Robin Hood Energy (the first local authority energy company in the UK, owned by Nottingham council).
- Utility Warehouse (under Telecom Plus, offering combined utility and communication packages)
Your choice of electricity company in the UK will partly depend on your area, although the bigger companies, such as British Gas, EDF, Npower and Scottish Power, can be more commonly found nationwide.
To compare prices for utility companies, you can visit www.ukpower.co.uk, which is a government backed site that provides impartial comparisons. However, there are numerous price comparison sites, many of which offer UK utility deals, or even combined utility packages.
UK electricity voltage is 230V (50Hz). While this is standard voltage for Europe, it is significantly higher than many other countries so check which appliances are compatible.
The UK uses three-pin point plugs (type G), similar to Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, to name a few countries. If you bring appliances from your homeland, you may require an adapter.
Power cuts are rare in the UK but do occasionally happen. If you experience a UK power cut, check if the street lights are out or with you neighbours to see if they have power. If the entire area is out, you will just have to sit it out until the UK electricity company gets the power back up.
If the power outage is just in your home, first check your electricity box to see if a switch has tripped. Otherwise, you will need to phone the emergency number of your UK electricity supplier. You will find the number on the welcome letter and the back of all your bills.
In the UK you are typically restricted to the water company that operates in your area. This website can help you find the UK water supplier for your region. As water companies in the UK are regional suppliers, this means you also need to create a new account with the regional supplier if you move area.
In 2017, however, the water regulator Ofwat announced the opening of the UK’s business water utility markets, allowing businesses, charities and public sector organisations the freedom to choose any water supplier. See if your business is eligible.
Although water companies in the UK offer different tariffs, all water suppliers are regulated by a governing authority to ensure consumers get a good deal. Most water suppliers use a metered service. This means you are only charged for the water you use – however a standing charge will apply for your basic infrastructure services. In designated areas with scarce water, UK water companies may be granted the right to force all houses to use a meter.
If your property isn’t yet fitted with a meter, many companies provide this service for free; some companies also allow you to switch back to a fixed rate if your meter-based costs are higher than non-metered bills over a two-year period.
If your water connection does not use a metered service, you will instead pay a set amount based on the size of your home and, in some cases, the number of people living there. Your UK water bill needs to be paid monthly for the entire year, after which your UK water bill will be reset based on your average use during the previous year. This can sometimes be a better option for high water consumers.
If you have any trouble with your UK water supply, contact the local authority that supplies your water. You will find the number on bills, welcome letters and company websites. You can also find websites with lists of approved plumbers (including emergency plumbers) and other water services in the UK at www.watersafe.org.uk and www.wras.co.uk.
Water companies in the UK
You can use a search tool to find the local UK water company in your area, while below is a list of water companies in the UK and information on their tap water quality (contact details provided here). Discover Water is another online tool detailing the performance of water companies in the UK.
Average water bills in the UK
UK water bills comprise two charges: one charge for the water you consume, and another charge for the treatment of sewerage and waste water (grey water from showers, toilets and any other water that runs from your property into the public sewer system). You may be able to claim a reduction in your UK water bill if you can prove that surface water drainage from your property doesn’t use public sewerage, for example, if you have a soakaway. In other cases, some consumers find switching to a water meter can reduce prices; if not, there is generally a 12-month grace period in which the consumer can switch back to a non-metered rate. If you have lost water to leakage, you may also be able to claim a refund on your UK water bill provided you fix the problem, although this is usually only offered once.
In 2017, Water UK announced a 2 percent rise in fees, pushing the average water bill in the UK to GBP 395 per year (up GBP 6 from the average water bill of GBP 389 in 2016), including sewerage services. For water only, the average water bill ranges from GBP 150–200 annually depending on the UK water company. Despite the increase, it is part of a larger goal to reduce water prices by 5 percent between 2015–2020, partly by giving water companies funding to offer better services and less water wastage. The average cost of one litre of water in the UK is 0.1 pence, averaging about GBP 1 per day for a household.
The tap water in the UK is safe to drink, from both public and other sources, including restaurants, shops and water fountains. In European reports, the UK typically ranks among the top for tap water quality. However, it is still common for people to purchase water filters or softeners to make a noticeable difference in the taste, particularly in areas that have hard water with higher concentration of minerals, such as calcium. While healthy if ingested in small doses, limestone and calcium build-ups in appliances can be a big problem, although newer appliances (such as dishwashers) allow you to adjust the settings to decrease hard water buildups.
Parts of north-west England, Wales, Devon and Cornwall are typically noted for having the softest water, while London, most urban areas and southern England are generally rated as having ‘very hard water’. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) provides a map outlining the water hardness by area, otherwise, most water suppliers in the UK provide tools on their websites where you can enter your postcode to get exact figures.
Generally UK gas will already be connected to your home and is generally supplied by the same company that supplies your electricity. You can follow these steps to change the gas into your name and ensure you are getting the best deal:
- Take a reading of your gas meter.
- Use an online comparison site to find and sign up to the best deal for your area.
- Give your reading to the supplier and wait for your first bill.
You have the option of paying your gas bill each time the meter is read or setting up a monthly direct debit from your bank to pay a set amount. Some people find the latter option easier, but you should always check to ensure you are not overpaying by too much – especially in the summer when you use less UK gas.
If you have any trouble connecting to your UK gas line, or you suspect you have a gas leak, contact your gas supplier immediately. You will find the emergency contact number on the welcome letter, on the back of bills or the company website.
Small gas canisters are available from camping stores, home improvement depots and Argos, but if you need something larger you can try companies such as Calor (www.calor.co.uk).
The utility company you choose give you a variety of options to pay your utility bills. Gas and electricity companies typically send a representative to read your meter every three months. You should expect to receive a bill shortly afterwards.
If the company is unable to take a meter reading from your home, your bill will be calculated on the average monthly use in previous months. Energy companies usually over-estimate the usage so it is a good idea to take the reading yourself and call them so your utility bills are more accurate.
To pay utility bills in the UK, you can use a credit or debit card and pay over the phone or online, make a bank transfer, or settle the bill at the post office using the payment slip supplied in the envelope with your UK utility bill.
If you feel a lump-sum UK utility bill every three months does not help your monthly budget, the convenient option is to set up a monthly direct debit. This allows you to pay a set amount each month which is adjusted when your meter is read.
Rubbish collections are usually carried out by local councils in the UK, unless you are moving into a privately owned and operated apartment block or development. Each month you will be expected to pay a council tax, which is based on the value of your home. This council tax covers you for rubbish collections and other council services. In the UK it can be expensive (more than GBP 100 per month) so be prepared for this.
UK councils generally collect rubbish weekly (sometimes bi-weekly), while your recycling, garden waste and glass will be collected every other week – if your council offers this service (most do).
It’s important to note that recycling laws are very strict in the UK. Be prepared to have your bins rejected if you have not separated your rubbish into the appropriate containers.
If you wish to dispose of waste that cannot go into your bins, you will need to take it to the local recycling centre. You may be asked to pay a charge if your council has one – this is especially the case for DIY waste. Electrical items also often incur a charge when disposing.
Your other option is to hire a skip and the responsibility of disposal will be on the skip firm. However, you must check they are correctly licensed or you may be liable.
Part of settling in and feeling at home in a new country is in setting up your new home. Good options for reasonably priced furnishings are Ikea or Argos. For DIY work on your house, B&Q is where you can find pretty much everything, as well as ScrewFix. For a mix of decoration and DIY, check out Homebase (to become Bunnings Warehouse) and The Range.