Thames Water Meter: Installations, Readings & Help

Thames Water Meters

Has Thames Water contacted you to install a water meter? Do you want to know how it will benefit you, or if you can refuse the installation? Our guide to Thames Water water meters answers all your questions.

Thames Water meters

water meters in box

First, there are two types of Thames Water meters: the older type of “dumb” meter and the newer smart meter.

With the older Thames Water water meter, the meter will often be at the boundary of your property and you will need to provide a meter reading so that Thames Water can calculate your water bill correctly. The supplier might send somebody to read your Thames Water meter if you cannot read the meter yourself.

The newer smart meter takes away the hassle of reading your meter and instead submits the reading back to Thames Water without the need to read it yourself. This means you won’t get an estimated bill if you forget to give Thames Water meter readings.

Our guide to water rates can help you save money by choosing the best tariff for your water.

How to read a Thames Water meter

water meter

Thames Water receives your meter reading automatically if you have a Thames Water smart meter. Your older, traditional meter will need to be read at regular intervals to make sure you don’t get an estimated bill from Thames Water. We recommend submitting a meter reading at least once every three months.

Reading a water meter is straightforward, and you only need to read the black numbers on your meter. You can ignore red numbers if you see any.

Customers who cannot read their meter because of a disability, medical condition or frailty could be eligible for the Priority Service Register.

You are eligible for the priority service if you meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • have a disability or serious illness
  • claim a pension
  • need a consistent supply of water for a medical condition
  • have a child under five
  • need translation or help to understand communications from us
  • have a condition that affects your life, such as dementia
  • are blind, partially sighted, deaf, or hard of hearing
  • have a mental health condition
  • need extra support because of life-changing events like bereavement

You can register for the priority services online or by calling 0800 009 3652 to speak to a Thames Water Representative.

What’s the difference between a metered and unmetered water bill?

You may not have a water meter if you have a property that was built prior to this act coming into force, unless you or the previous owner or occupants of the property opted for a water meter.

If your home doesn’t have a Thames Water meter, your bills will be on an unmetered tariff. This means that Thames Water base your water bill on the rateable value of your property, plus an annual charge.

What's Rateable Value? Rateable Value, or RV, is the price of your home in 1993. Thames Water calculate the cost of your bill using your rateable value plus the annual surcharge if you don't have a water meter.

Before 1991, they billed all customers for their water based on a rateable value which changed every year. After introducing compulsory metering on new properties, water companies billed based on the meters but kept the same value from 1993 when calculating the rateable value of your property.

Sometimes, having an unmetered tariff can work out cheaper. However, having a Thames Water meter can be beneficial, as they will bill you for actual consumption and can help save the planet as we become more environmentally aware and use less water.

What are the advantages of having a Thames water meter?

You can save money with a metered tariff, as long as you adapt your habits to consume less water than you did before by:

  1. Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth
  2. Reduce the length of your shower
  3. Plug the sink, or using a bowl when washing dishes by hand
  4. Install water saving taps or adapters that fit on your existing taps

Thames Water also offers Smarter Home Visit where an expert from Thames Water will visit your home to show you how you can reduce your water consumption and save money.

We recommend having a meter installed prior to the visit as they will identify how you can save money better, and also locate any leaks that you might not be aware of.

Are Thames Water meters compulsory?

Since 1991, water meter installation has been compulsory as part of the Water Industry Act 1991, but only for new build properties. Thames Water is installing compulsory water meters, and began compulsory installations in London in 2019, with a plan to install water meters for all their customers by 2025.

Can I refuse a Thames Water Smart meter?

No! Thames Water has legal authority to install a meter on your property. You can choose not to allow the meter to be installed inside your property. However, Thames Water will install the meter at the edge of your property should you refuse access, or Thames Water may instead place you on a no access tariff which is much more expensive.

All Thames Water customers are under compulsory metering, there is no way to escape having a meter installed and we advise you to allow Thames Water to install you a smart meter inside your property as it gives you greater control over the amount of water you use at your property.

How to find your Thames Water meter

If you have a traditional water meter, you can often find it outside your property near the public footpath or by your garden. However, they can also be inside your property near your main stop-tap.

Our guide to water meters also contains tips on where your meter might be.

How do I know if I have a water meter?

We recommend you check your latest Thames Water bill if you can’t find the water meter, as your property may still be on an unmetered tariff. Likewise, You might not know which tariff your property has if you've just moved in. You can contact Thames Water if you don’t have a bill handy or you find the bill difficult to read.

How to get a water meter?

Thames Water has started the rollout of compulsory metering in London and will roll out to the rest of the Thames Water network soon. Thames Water will contact you when they’re installing meters in your area to arrange a date and time for the installation.

You can request a Thames Water smart meter early if Thames Water hasn’t started compulsory installations in your area yet.

Below is a map of the areas Thames Water are installing water meters.

Thames Water map of smart meter installations

Do I need my landlord’s permission to install a Thames Water meter?

As the meter is compulsory, you don’t need permission from your landlord. However, we recommend you let your landlord know Thames Water is installing a water meter.

How long will it take to install a Thames Water meter?

The installation takes about 45 minutes to complete and they will turn your water supply off for around 30 minutes.

It can take two to three hours to install the meter and your water will be off for about 30 minutes.

Thames Water may send an engineer beforehand to conduct a survey. They will let you know how long it will take in your specific case.

What happens after the Thames Water smart meter installation?

After the Thames Water meter installation is complete, Thames Water will activate your meter. It can take up to 90 days to activate your Thames Water smart meter. Once it’s activated, you will begin a one-year comparison where you will still be on an unmetered tariff.

During the one-year comparison period, you will see your water consumption online. We recommend you register for an online account so you can receive regular email updates about your water consumption. But you will also receive letters at three, six, and 10 month intervals that will compare how much your water bill would be if you were on a metered tariff.

You are free to switch from unmetered to metered tariff anytime. There’s no need to wait until the one-year comparison period is over. At the end of the one-year comparison period, Thames Water will switch you to a metered tariff.

Will my bill go up after meter installation?


Sometimes, a higher bill is unavoidable. You might get some help with your bills if your water bill has risen after a Thames Water meter installation. Thames Water has many options available. Find out how Thames Water can help if you are struggling to pay in our comprehensive guide to Thames Water billing.

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