Researching energy deals and making small adjustments will ensure your utilities bills in France are as low as possible, saving money better spent on the finer things in life, as Dan Moore finds out
Get more for your money with our guide to utility providers and efficiency tips
Utility bills tend to be lower in France than in the UK, but anyone who buys a property will agree they could do with shaving a little more off their energy bills. After all who wants to pay more than they need? Here’s the lowdown on energy costs in France, and how to cut them.
Let’s take on electricity first, as the chances are you’ll buy something with a multitude of sockets. Electricity is around 10% cheaper on average in France than it is in the UK. This is the good news compared to gas, which is only marginally less costly, on average.
As for water, well, that depends on your supplier. In most towns and villages the mairie oversees the commune’s water supply and you can’t choose your provider, but the good news is it’s really easy to switch electricity and gas providers in France.
Though estimations depend on many different factors, here is an overview of what you could be expected to pay.
According to French energy comparison website Selectra ( en.selectra.info), the annual electricity consumption for a 100m2 house with two adults using electricity for heating, water and cooking is about 15,000kwh. The bill for that would be between €2,200 and €2,800. A property with a 150m2 footprint and a family of four living in it would pay between €3,200 and €4,200 a year for electricity with those same providers.
If you use gas to heat your home, water and cooking appliances, the annual bill for the two scenarios above would be around €700 or €1,000 respectively.
The average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales for 2016-17 is estimated to be £389. Water costs less in France, with the annual water bill coming in at between €200 and €400 a year.
To put this in perspective, you can expect to pay around €300 a year based on a two-bedroom home in Paris.
Small things add up
Even if your pad isn’t within the sight of Notre Dame, there is a lot to be said for making minor adjustments to water-related habits.
Turning the tap off when brushing your teeth may seem pernickety, but if you leave it running for four minutes a day, that’s the equivalent of pouring water down the drain non-stop for 24 hours each year. Given mains water flows at a rate of 20 litres a minute, that’s 29,200 litres gone every year. Even if your water comes out of a tank, the amount you are chucking down the plug is still more than enough to keep the grass green on your lawn throughout the summer.
Small things matter. For instance, turning the thermostat down by only one degree will provide savings of up to €70 a year on average. Tinkering with your thermostat every quarter could draw dividends, especially if you can crank down that heating a little more, and take other energy-saving steps.
Let’s start with the essentials – tea or coffee if you are so inclined. Boiling only what you need in a kettle is definitely something to consider. It costs around 25p in the UK or 20 cents in France to heat a full kettle. So, if you and your family are partial to a cuppa you can easily fritter away a few euros a day. It makes more sense to use only the water required to fill a mug or two rather than fill the kettle to the brim.
It’s worth remembering that many older properties in France have no or poor wall and roof insulation so even if the climate is a degree or two warmer than the south of England, you’re losing out due to good old-fashioned useless construction methods.
It is estimated that as much as a third of the heat used in a detached property is lost, even more in a home with solid walls. So, although insulation is not cheap, it is worth getting an installation quote and asking potential suppliers to estimate the cost saving over time.
Arthur Cutler, director of planning and design service French Plans, told us: “An individual thermal survey can be carried out by specialist companies, with recommendations as to insulation, and potential savings as a
consequence. Grants are sometimes available also, but are regional, so there is no general way to advise on this point. My advice would be to install as much insulation as possible within your budget. Every centime spent on it, assuming correct installation, will repay the property owner in the long run.”
Light at the end of the tunnel At the other end of the scale are the day-to-day tactics that, if thought about, can save a small fortune. Everyone knows that LED and halogen light bulbs save you money, but what about dimmer switches? Yes, they can add to the mood; pop them down a few clicks and an evening in with a friend can take on a whole new meaning.
What’s almost as good is the fact that a dimmer can lengthen the life of your light bulb, which is no minor thing when you consider the inconvenience of needing to shop for a fresh one, invariably after dark, let alone the several euros a pack costs. Costing less than €10 for four, dimmers are a worthwhile investment.
Television sets, computers and stereo systems are a mainstay of most homes, and it is estimated that the average household spends up to €80 a year on electricity bills just by keeping appliances on standby. Using an energy-saving plug can offer huge savings – comparatively speaking – with an annual outlay of less than €3.
These money-saving options may not amount to much on an individual basis, but combined they could make a significant difference to your bills and your budget. If it pays for your children to visit during the summer or winter holidays, or contributes to an extra meal or two in your favourite French restaurant, then it’s a win all round.
It is estimated that the average household spends up to €80 a year on electricity just by keeping appliances on standby