Moving to university is a super-exciting time, and you’ll probably be thinking more about making new friends and hitting the social scene than sorting out energy bills. Yes, setting up utilities can be annoying but it’s important you do it as soon as possible. Here’s how…

In this guide


Step 1: Find and read the meters

On the day you move in, make a note of the readings on your:

  • electricity meter
  • gas meter (if you have one—not all homes have gas appliances)

It’s important to do this, as the energy supplier for the previous tenants will automatically place you on a “deemed contract”. They do this whenever someone moves into a new house and starts using electricity or gas (or both) without having agreed a contract first.

Deemed contracts are generally more expensive than standard contracts. But don’t worry—a deemed contract only lasts up until the day you switch to your new energy supplier.

Finding your meters

In most homes, the meters are either in the basement/cellar or in a meter box on an outside wall.

If you live in a flat or apartment, the meters for all the homes in your building will probably be in the same place. The ones for your address should be labelled accordingly.

Reading your meters

There are a few different types of meters, and your home could have any one of them. We explain below how to read their displays:

Electricity meters

Mechanical digital meters

On a single-rate meter, the display is a mechanically rotating row of numbers (white on black, or black on white), like this:

You read the numbers from left to right—including any zeros at the beginning—and ignore any numbers inside a red border.

So, you’d take the above reading as 07486.


Two-rate meters are like single-rate meters but with two rows of numbers, like this:


The displays show your energy use during the day (Normal) and at night (Low). You read them as you would a single-rate meter, so you’d take the above readings as:

  • 26550 (low/night)
  • 13499 (normal/day)
Digital meters

A single-rate digital meter has one digital reading, like this:

Read the numbers from left to right—including any zeros at the beginning.

So, you’d take the above reading as 37504.


A two-rate digital meter has only one display, but takes two readings—one for the daytime and one for night.

To tell whether you have a two-rate meter, look for the word “Multirate” written on the front (usually above the digital display). If it doesn’t say “Multirate”, you have a single-rate meter.

The display alternates between the two readings, and denotes them as 1 and 2, like this:

Read the numbers from left to right—including any zeros at the beginning. You’d take the above readings as:

  • 22138
  • 05897

The daytime reading is whichever reading has a flashing 1 or 2 before it.

Ignore any readings that have a “t” before them—this is simply a total of the other two readings.

Gas meters

Digital metric meters

Metric meters measure gas usage in cubic metres (m3). They have a five-number display (white on black, or black on white), like this:

Read the numbers from left to right, including any zeros at the beginning. Ignore any numbers after the decimal point, inside the red border.

So, you’d take the above reading as 07381.

Imperial meters

Imperial meters measure gas usage in cubic feet (ft3). They have a four-number display (white on black, or black on white), like this:

Read the numbers from left to right, including any zeros at the beginning. Ignore any numbers in red, and any dials that might be next to the numerical display.

You’d take the above reading as 1249.


Step 2: Find out who supplies your energy

When you move in to your new home, it will still be getting energy from whichever supplier the previous tenant used.

As you become responsible for the bills from the day you move in, it’s important to find out who that supplier is. It may be worth asking your landlord to contact the previous tenant. If they can’t help you, don’t panic! There are ways to get this information.

Who is my electricity supplier?

To find out who provides your electricity, contact the electricity distribution company for your region. You can find their number in the table below:

RegionDistribution companyNumber to call
London, East and South EastUK Power Networks0845 601 5467
North East England (including Yorkshire)Northern Powergrid0845 070 7172
North West EnglandElectricity North West0800 195 4141
South Wales, Midlands and South WestWestern Power Distribution0845 601 5972
Southern EnglandSSE Power Distribution0845 026 2554
Northern ScotlandSSE Power Distribution0800 048 3515
Southern ScotlandSP Energy Networks0330 101 0300

Who is my gas supplier?

To find out your gas supplier, you can either:

You’ll need your address and postcode.


Step 3: Give the current energy supplier your meter readings

Once you’ve found out who supplies your energy, give them your details and the meter readings you took in Step 1 and tell them the date you moved in.

They will set up a new account with them. Energy suppliers have a range of tariffs for their customers, but to start with they’ll likely put you on their standard tariff, which is often the most expensive. This is why you should look for a better deal.

If you’re asked for your meter numbers

When switching energy suppliers, you may be asked for the:

  • MPAN (meter point administration number)—for electricity
  • MPRN (meter point reference number)—for gas

These are unique numbers given to the electricity and gas supply to your property. If you change suppliers without moving house, your numbers don’t change. If you do move, however, the meters in your new house will have their own numbers.

How to find them


Your MPAN will be shown somewhere on your electricity bill. If you don’t have a bill to hand, your local electricity supplier will be able to provide this information—give them a call.


This isn’t shown on any bill. To find your MPRN, use the Find My Supplier online tool or call Meter Number Helpline on 0870 608 1524 (calls cost 7p/min plus your network access fee).


Step 4: Handy definitions

When it comes to Energy Suppliers, there’s always a lot of jargon and technical information that can be quite confusing. Here’s some definitions and a few things to consider when it comes to energy.

What is dual fuel?

A dual fuel tariff is when you combine your gas and electricity into a single package from the same supplier, rather than get them from two different companies.

Many energy suppliers offer dual fuel tariffs, often (but not always!) at a discounted price. When you’re shopping around, you should run a price comparison on both dual fuel tariffs and single fuel tariffs to make sure you’re getting the cheapest gas and electricity.

Going with a dual fuel tariff does make it easier to keep tabs on your usage and spending. You’ll receive bills from just one energy company and pay for your gas and electricity in one direct debit payment, saving money and time. Lots of people choose dual fuel tariffs for this convenience alone.

What if I have a prepayment meter?

Prepayment meters are quite common in student houses. They’re popular with landlords as they keep the cost down when the properties are vacant over the summer months. They can also stop careless students running up bills and then moving out without paying for their energy.

Think of a prepayment meter as a “pay as you go” option. You operate the meter using a special card or key (see the image below) which you top up with money beforehand at a shop or post office.

Image credit: npower

Although prepayment meters are one of the more expensive ways to pay for your energy, reasonably priced tariffs are available if you shop around.

If you’re planning to stay in your house for a few years, you could ask your landlord to change the prepayment meter to a standard meter. Energy suppliers do charge for this, however—it’s normally around £50.

If there are a few of you living in the property, perhaps you could pay the charge together—just make sure you get the O.K. from your landlord first!


Step 5: Pay the old supplier’s final bill

If you’ve not set up your Energy with a company before you move in, you will have to pay the old supplier’s final bill. Switching suppliers takes around 21 days (but can take up to 6 weeks as an industry standard), so typically you’ll pay at least one bill from the old supplier. This is why it’s better to switch sooner rather than later.

Take a meter reading on the date you switch over and give it to:

  • your old energy supplier—so they know what to charge on your final bill
  • your new energy supplier—so there’s no overlap on your first bill from them


Split The Bills

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