What is the cheapest way to heat water – gas or electricity? That’s the question commonly asked with increasing electricity prices.
As of April 2013, water bills in the UK increased by as much as 5.5 per cent (3.5 per cent on average). Not only that, we have to pay for heating our water, too.
There are many methods and options available when it comes to heating water, though your main water supply will usually be heated by your central heating system – this is either stored within a tank or cistern, or if you have a combi boiler, hot water is available on demand.
Combi boilers are thought to be more energy efficient than heating water using a cistern or tank system. Other ways of heating water include solar hot water systems, electric showers and immersion heaters.
The prices of these heating methods vary; for instance, an electric shower can cost anywhere from Â£50 right up to Â£700. If you decided to take the solar route, a water heating system could cost you around Â£5,000.
Standard immersion heaters generally cost around Â£150 for purchase and installation (around Â£120 of that is for the installation itself).
How much of our energy is used for heating water?
It’s difficult to tell how much energy we used to heat water, because it’s particularly tricky to measure, especially when factoring in the energy your gas boiler uses to heat your home.
However, a typical home uses over 10 per cent of their energy on heating water, or around a quarter of the fuel which the boiler uses to heat your home.
After all, hot water is a requirement all year round, whereas heating is dependent on the season.
The real cost of your hot water should also take into account your water supply â€“ in some cases, this can be just as high as the price youâ€™re paying to heat it.
Unlike gas and electricity suppliers, you canâ€™t just switch your water supplier. The market, although privatised, isnâ€™t open to competition which means you can’t easily do an energy comparison, and youâ€™re really left with two options which boil down to how youâ€™re billed.
You can choose whether to change from rateable bills to having your own water meter, and some households in England and Wales could save hundreds of pounds per year by switching.
Most homes in England and Wales pay their water bills using the water bill system, where they pay a fixed price based on the homeâ€™s rateable value, meaning the amount of water you use is irrelevant.
The simplest way to think of it is, the more you can rent your home out for, the more youâ€™ll be paying for your water.
Unfortunately there are no plans in the works to change this system, and no real way to get the value of your home re-assessed. Scotland have their own system based on council tax bands, and Northern Ireland have no domestic water charges.
Pay as you go?
Already around 45 per cent of homes have water meters, which means your bills are charged at fairer rate, going by how much water you use. These meters calculate your sewerage bill too.
Before you decide to install your own water meter, itâ€™s smart to figure out whether itâ€™d really be a wise investment that could save you money. The easiest way to do this is by going on the amount of bedrooms you have in your home.
If you have bedrooms equal to or more than the number of people living in your home, itâ€™s probably a good idea to look into getting a meter installed â€“ unless you live in Scotland, where doing so isnâ€™t free and can actually cost you quite a bit of money.
Lowering your water heating bills
Back to heating your water, there are some steps you can take to reduce you water heating costs:
- Choose carefully how you choose to heat your water.
- Be practical about when you choose to heat your water.
- Try to only heat your water when necessary.
- Try heating your water to a lower temperature.
- When youâ€™ve heated your water, make sure you use it and donâ€™t let it cool down before you do.
R Newman is an energy writer who has been writing since 2007. He has worked in various marketing and creative positions over the past six years and has a BA (hons) in English Language and Creative Writing. His energy related work can be found online as well as in print.