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prepaid electricity and saving money

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At the moment I’m running on emergency credit in the electricity meter. The house that I bought (and live in) a few months ago was previously rented out to some very flaky tenants. I’ve had a few ‘do you know where these people live so we can chase them for their unpaid debts’ letters.

I imagine that at some point, one or more tenants got behind on their electricity bill, and so I’ve got a prepaid meter. Being frightened of red topped letters means that I’ve never had this problem myself, and I’ve never actually lived anywhere with a prepay meter before. What I’m supposed to do, is put money on a prepayment card and then insert that into a slot in the meter. What I actually do, is not think about it, and then suddenly realise that I’m about to run out. I didn’t have a chance to actually go and top up the card, so I to turned on the emergency credit.

Did you know that I use 10p of electricity whilst I’m at work and not even in the house? Being (temporarily) energy poor has got me paranoid about turning off all the lights, and making sure that I leave as little as possible on standby. Currently the only things that are permanently plugged in are the fridge, gas boiler (need electricity for the chip inside), telephone and the stereo in my bedroom whose plug is hard to reach.

I think this discipline is actually good for me. I think that environmentalism is a good thing, so I should probably conserve energy. Cutting down on electricity use should save me money. Now if I could just persuade the electrickery company to come out and switch my meter to regular billed - and hence a cheaper tariff - and keep up these good habits, I could really save some of my hard earned cash.

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14 comments for “prepaid electricity and saving money”

  1. Wow! That’s a wild story. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    Bum deal for you, but I guess you are at least turning it into a positive. Best of luck and I hope can keep the lights on! :)

    Posted by FinanceAndFat | October 3, 2007, 8:47 pm
  2. I have read about this meter stuff in British novels. People actually putting coins in! Is this still common? Here we just get our electricity bill in the mail, which says how much electricity we’ve used, then we pay it. Or you can move to an equal payment plan, based on how much you used last year (if your usage is not the same, they reimburse you or you pay extra after the year is over). However, at my current apartment our electricity is included in the rent.

    Posted by Monica | October 4, 2007, 12:05 am
  3. We had the same problem with our first flat - it was a repossession, and unbeknownst to us, the first owner had the same surname as us. (And the christian name of my brother-in-law.) It made life incredibly difficult, although we did manage to convince them to let us have a normal meter by dint of showing them the house sale details.

    We had a prepay meter on holiday this year, though, and ended up getting quite competitive about how cheap a shower we could have, or what low-energy meal options I could cook :-)

    Posted by Annie | October 4, 2007, 9:07 am
  4. Quite a lot of people with rented flats have prepay meters. Its a common way for electricity (or gas) companies to recoup any money owed. The ones where you put coins have mostly been replaced by card or token ones - these are less prone to being cut off.

    Posted by plonkee | October 4, 2007, 9:00 pm
  5. I guess I haven’t read enough British novels b/c I’ve never heard of such a thing! I love the idea of being able to immediately see how much electricity you’re using in actual money terms. One of these days I will try to see how much we can save by unplugging things not in constant use…

    P.S. Thanks for stopping by and adding a kind comment - I really appreciate it!

    Posted by Chief Family Officer | October 5, 2007, 2:44 am
  6. That’s pretty neat about prepay meters. I’ve never heard such a thing. I like it. It’d force me to conserve electricity even more and save more money. I can convince my roommate to turn off the lights!

    Posted by Thrifty Penny | October 7, 2007, 3:07 am
  7. Prepaid electricity is coming to America as well using 3rd generation smart meters like the Echelon smart meters and software like “JUICE” from Utiliflex. It’s starting in places like Texas, mostly in apartment complexes. No deposit, easy move in and out, no waiting for utility/power company to send a guy to turn you on. Unlike the British systems, which often have an in-home monitor, these tell you your daily usage via the web, e-mail or text messages and give you information about rates and tiered billing because the communicate daily (or more often) with the utility company. True prepaid enabled smart meters store the value in the meter and have a disconnect that shuts off power when you run out of pre-purchased electricity. Pre-paid customers often use much less power than a peer customer just because of the nearly real-time usage information. It makes you more aware of your actions. Some systems can provide power readings at regular intervals for a while, every 10 or 15 minutes, so that you can tune your house. Of course, if you would like to run out and read your meter, you can get realtime info by using either KillAWatt or BlueLine monitors.

    Old style STS token/sneakernet meters work on faith, and still have to be read and checked for tampering and quite bypass often. Newer smart metering are much more tamper aware and actual usage is reported back to the power companies.

    Just brain dumping.. I work in the industry and really like what it does in many ways. I see it as an enabling technology.

    Posted by Mike Harrison | May 4, 2008, 7:56 pm
  8. hi, nice post! if you are from ger, visit my site: http://www.prepaid-pakete.org

    Posted by Handy-Joe | November 15, 2008, 1:41 pm
  9. I think most people would agree that saving money is something “easier said than done”. Personally, I believe it’s a mind-set that needs to be developed by creating good money-saving habits.

    Here are some things I’ve done to help change my spending habits:

    - Cook more at home ( Eating out is very expensive especially
    if you do it a couple times a week
    - Try shopping online ( You can find better deals than in the
    store and you save on gas (I recommend  HYPERLINK
    “http://www.shoptivity.com” http://www.shoptivity.com)
    - Pay the full balance on credit cards each month ( Interest
    charge is like giving away free money
    - Don’t forget to pay yourself ( Set up an online savings
    account (they pay higher interest than a normal savings
    - Set a budget and goals ( It’s good to have your goals
    written down so you see them everyday and don’t lose focus
    on your ultimate objectives

    Again, saving money requires a lot of patience and hard work. However, you’ll thank yourself later on in life. Good luck everyone!! =)

    Posted by Ellen S. | June 8, 2010, 5:38 pm
  10. I unplug what I don’t need all the time, specially during the night. Every item that is on standby draws eletricity and that means money out of my pocket! I prefer to use that money somewhere elese :)

    Posted by john | August 6, 2010, 2:40 pm

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