Saturday, 22 August 2009

Meet Rita the Meter

We had Rita the Meter installed on Thursday.

We've been considering changing to a water meter for...more years than I care to remember. In theory, we should save money, as the rule of thumb says that if you have less people than bedrooms, you'll be better off. But that rule wasn't designed for people who have very productive gardens.

We have been doing a lot to minimise our water useage - fitting doodahs in the cisterns (with mixed success as I'm sure one toilet doesn't flush properly now); catching the water that we have coming out of the tap while waiting for the hot water to come through, and using it to water the plants; bought an energy/water efficient washing machine, that sort of thing.

Our next door neigbour had a meter installed last year. The bills have been slow to arrive, but she has saved a lot of money. So, we decided to take the plunge. We have 18 months to decide whether to keep Rita or to send her packing, and I wanted to try and include 2 summers in that so we could see what difference the garden makes.

It was relatively easy to sign up to have a meter fitted, but a bit of a faff with the contractors. It took longer than promised to get it installed. In the intervening period we've been practising being even more water miserly. We've fitted one of those water restricting shower heads, which has dramatically reduced the water used in our shower. It took a while to get used to, but now its fine. I do find I spend longer in the shower though - not because I need to, more because I can.

The plumber took quite a long time to fit Rita, which surprised me as she's about the size of a baked bean can and is installed under the sink (we have a shared supply). There isn't a huge amount of room under there. It's a wide enough cupboard, but we have the water softener under there, plus the pipework for 2 sinks, a three-way tap, and a separate hose spray. And a water filter cartridge. And then of course there is The Stuff. You know. Washing up liquid. Cream Cleaner. Dishwasher tablets. Dishwasher Cleaner. White vinegar solution., bin bags... The stuff we use all the time. And the stuff we use occasionally: stailnless steel polish, baby oil, Milton, stove cleaner, bicarbonate of Soda, wasp killer, ant killer, bleach, disinfectant, baby bio, stickystuff remover. It all had to come out.

Eventually the plumber emerged from the darkest recesses of the cupboard and said he'd found it. He had spent 20 minutes trying to fix a leak, which turned out not to be a leakm but to be a split pipe. I apologised for having crap pipework, but it wasn't our pipework, it was his.

Having had Rita installed, I phoned the water company to find out what the cost of water was going to be. I had sort of expected it to be on the literature the plumber provided, but it wasn't. It works out at £1.40 per cubic metre. Our water nill for this year was £310, which means that if we use less than (310/1.40) 221 cubic metres a year. we'll be ahead.

We need to get in the habit of checking Rita before and after a Washing Machine cycle, a dishwasher cycle, etc so we know how much they are costing us.


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