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Students guide to energy bills

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Fiona Leake
Updated 19th January 2021

Paying energy bills as a student doesn’t need to be a confusing and stressful experience. Save yourself time and money by reading our student guide to energy bills. Whether you are wondering what the average student bills cost per week or how to set up gas and electricity – we have you sorted!

What are energy bills?

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Energy bills are a breakdown of the gas and electricity you have used in your household over the past month or quarter. Your energy supplier sends these bills to tell you what you owe and how to pay. 

Your energy bills are either based on meter readings or are estimated by your supplier. 

The more gas and electricity you use, the higher your energy bills. You use energy to power appliances, turn on lights and heat your water.

For more information check out our guide on understanding energy bills.

What should I do first when I move into a student house?

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The first thing you need to do when you move into your student home is to locate the gas and electricity meters. You will then need to take meter readings as soon as possible. This will ensure that you only pay for the energy you use, not what the previous tenants have used. 

You can find your gas and electricity meters in the following locations:

  • Outside wall of the property
  • In a hallway, kitchen or under the stairs
  • In a communal hallway

If you can’t find your meters, give your landlord or estate agent a ring and they’ll tell you where the meters are located.

How do I read my gas and electricity meters?

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There are three different types of energy meters, all of which are read differently:

  • Dial meters - look like clocks
  • Digital meters - numbers
  • Smart meters - digital in-house display
  • Prepayment meters - you will load money onto it using a card (no need to read these)

Reading gas and electricity meters is simple - just write down the numbers you see, starting from left to right. Make sure you ignore any red numbers or red dials.

If you are ever unsure about reading your meter, you can take a picture and send it to your energy supplier so they can update your bill. 

What are prepayment meters?

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Some student houses have prepayment meters. These meters require you to load money and pay for your gas and electricity before you use it. Once you’ve used up the money, you’ll need to load more on. You upload credit onto the key or card that comes with the meter, you then insert it into the meter and can start using energy. 

Student houses might have prepayment meters as it gives the landlord peace of mind. You have to pay for energy before you use any energy. This means that you can’t build up expensive energy bills that you can’t afford which could become the landlord’s problem.

Why do I need to pay energy bills as a student?

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If your tenancy agreement doesn’t state ‘bills included’ in the monthly rent payments, then you will need to pay your energy bills. Some landlords do include bills in the cost of the rent, meaning that you won’t have to worry about paying yourself and setting up an account.

However, many tenancy agreements state that bills aren’t included. This means that you will need to set up an account and take meter readings. 

When you switch on the lights or turn on the heating, you are using gas and electricity. This needs to be paid for. Which is why students need to pay energy bills too!

How to set up student gas and electricity bills

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When setting up your energy account, the first thing you need to do is find out who your energy supplier is. You can find this out by asking your landlord, estate agent or previous tenant.

Usually, the energy supplier will know that a new tenant has moved in and send you a letter to set up your account. However, if you already know the supplier, you can get in touch with them first. 

Let your energy supplier know you’ve moved in and tell them your meter readings that you took.

Usually, the supplier will just put you on the standard tariff, which is the most expensive. Always find out what tariff you are on and shop around for the best deal, more on switching energy suppliers later.

Once you’ve got in touch, the energy supplier will take your details and set up an energy account.

Read our guide for more information on setting up energy bills.

How to pay your student energy bills

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When you contact your energy supplier to set up your gas and electricity, you can also choose how you want to pay your bills. 

You have two options:

  • Direct debit - you’ll be automatically charged on your bank account each month.
  • Paper billing - you’ll receive a monthly bill in the post which you can pay online or by cheque.

If you opt for paperless billing and pay by direct debit, you will save money as energy suppliers offer discounts for these options. Paperless billing just means that you won’t receive physical bills in the post, you will be able to view your bills online on your energy account. 

You might be asked whether you want to pay for your energy monthly or quarterly. We would recommend that, as a student, you pay monthly. This will allow you to budget better and avoid any surprise bills every quarter that you hadn’t planned for.

Average student energy bills per month

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The cost of your monthly energy bill depends on how much energy you are using, the size of your house and how many people are living there.

Split the Bills has provided a breakdown of the rough cost of student energy bills.

If you have a dual fuel tariff (both gas and electricity with one supplier) here’s what your bills could cost each month depending on house size:

  • 1-2 bedroom - £91
  • 3-4 bedroom - £136
  • 5 bedroom - £179
  • 7 bedroom - £210

Don’t get too scared about these figures, remember you will be splitting the bill between your housemates!

How to split student bills

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One of the most complicated matters when it comes to student bills is how to split them. It’s best to assign the most sensible and responsible housemate to take ownership of managing the bills and keeping on track of who owes what. 

Here are some easy ways to split student energy bills:

1. Share utility bills between housemates

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An easy way to split bills is to assign different utilities for different housemates. You might be in charge of gas and electricity bills whilst someone else takes broadband. Each person will have to make sure that they have enough money in their bank account each month to pay for the bill they are responsible for.

You can then total up the cost of the bills each month and split it between everyone. A great way to do this is in a spreadsheet.

2. Use bill splitting apps

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Instead of using an expensive company that manages splitting bills for you, you can do it yourself using free bill splitting apps. Apps such as Splitwise are free to use and do all of the bill organisation for you. You can request payments from your housemates, add due dates and organise everything into one single payment per tenant each month. 

3. Set up a joint bank account

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You could set up a joint bank account with your housemates and organise all of the bills to be paid from that bank account. Everyone can add their share of the cost to the joint account each month. This removes the hassle of housemates owing each other money and all of the bills will come from the same place.

You should only set up a joint account if everyone can be trusted to pay the money into the account each month. Otherwise, the credit rating of whoever opened the account will be affected if they go overdrawn. So, make sure you are moving in with housemates you know will pay.

Can I change my energy supplier as a student?

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If you pay for your gas and electricity and your name is on the bill then you are free to switch energy suppliers whenever you want. 

If the landlord pays for the energy bills and bills are included in the rent, then the energy supplier is the choice of your landlord. This will be mentioned in your tenancy agreement. 

Double-check your tenancy agreement before switching energy suppliers, it’s likely to list who the ‘default’ provider is for the property. It’s also good practice to let your landlord know when you switch energy suppliers. However, your landlord cannot dictate which energy supplier you use, unless they are the ones paying the bill, of course.

How to switch energy supplier as a student

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When you move into your student house, the property will already be provided with gas and electricity by an energy supplier. It can be a costly mistake to stick with the current supplier. Usually, you will be paying a standard tariff for your energy and this is often the most expensive option. 

According to energy regulator Ofgem, 11 million households are on a standard tariff and could save £300 a year by switching suppliers.

Switching energy suppliers to a better deal is very easy. Once you’ve compared suppliers and tariffs, your old and new energy supplier will communicate together to organise the switch. 

Comparison websites are great places to find the cheapest energy deals. Once you’ve picked your new energy supplier, you’ll need to provide them with the following information:

  • Your postcode - different areas are charged different energy prices.
  • Name of current supplier - to help comparison.
  • Name of current tariff - so the new supplier has an idea of what you are on.
  • Annual gas and electricity usage - the most accurate quotes are based on accurate usage figures. You can find these figures on your bills.
  • Bank details - if you want to set up a direct debit.

Always take the time to compare better deals when you first move into your student house - you could save yourself a lot of money!

For more information about switching energy suppliers, check out our in-depth guide.

How to save money on student energy bills

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As a student, you aren’t made of money and a vital part of living away from home is to learn how to budget. There are countless ways to save money, as listed in our guide on reducing energy bills.

Some of the best tips for students are listed below:

  • Avoid estimated bills - regularly provide your energy supplier with meter readings to avoid estimated bills. Estimated bills can often be much higher than your actual meter readings.
  • Switch energy tariff/supplier - check comparison sites to make sure that you are on the cheapest tariff for your energy usage. 
  • Wrap up - if you are in a t-shirt, put a jumper on before considering turning on the heating. The less you use heating, the more money you’ll save on energy bills.
  • Only run the washing machine/dishwasher when full - you’ll save electricity by using appliances when they are full, avoiding unnecessary uses. 
  • Cook together - not only is it fun for housemates to cook together but you’ll save money on energy too. It’s much better to cook one meal rather than multiple meals that use more energy. 
  • Turn off the lights and appliances - teach your housemates to switch off lights when they aren’t in the room and turn off any appliances on standby. You’ll end up using less energy and saving money. 

Being aware of your energy usage and cost can prompt you to be more careful about when and why you are using gas and electricity.

Student energy bills golden rules

Follow our top tips to make your student energy bills easy to manage and stress-free. 

1. Put everyone’s names on the energy bill

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When setting up your gas and electricity account with your supplier, ask if you can put all of your housemates' names on the account. This way, everyone is responsible for paying the bill each month. If someone doesn’t pay, everyone’s credit rating could be affected, not just the account holder’s. 

This group responsibility will make everyone much more likely to pay their share promptly each month.

2. Take meter readings right away

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As soon as you move into your student property, take meter readings immediately! This will make sure that you only pay for the energy you use and not what the previous tenants have used. 

3. Try to get bills included with the rent

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If you can find a property that includes bills in the rent then great! You could try to ask the landlord if this is a possibility in your current property - it can be much cheaper and less hassle to have rent including bills.

However, it’s not always cheaper to have bills included in the rent as landlords could overcharge or use an expensive supplier. So, always compare and weigh up which is cheaper. 

Sometimes, having bills included is worth it for being hassle-free as it’s much easier to split one total cost between housemates.

4. Set up strict bill rules

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It might not be a fun conversation but laying out some ground rules when it comes to energy bills is important. You need to pay your bills on time every month. On the same day every month, everyone will have to transfer their share into the account that pays the energy bill.

You can ask everyone to set up a standing order to pay their share of the bills each month. This way, no one will ever have the uncomfortable task of chasing people for money each month.

Once this is organised, it will make paying bills much easier.

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