How do Bulb calculate their estimated readings?

I joined Bulb on 12 September of this year with a starting reading of 5198. I made first payment of £37.50, the amount they calculated prior to me joining (single person, one bedroom flat), which seemed accurate going from my previous usage/costs. I upped my direct debit amount to £40 straight away and changed the date of payment to the 1st of each month.

I have had 2 estimated readings from Bulb, the last of which 6023, and an email telling me my account is £125.19 in debit. I have just had a look and my actual reading is 5555, which I have submitted.

How can Bulb have overestimated my usage so much without any pattern having been formed, when the only indication they could have had of potential usage was the information I gave prior to joining from which they calculated my £37.50 payments? I obviously appreciate just because I am a single person living in a one bedroom flat doesn’t necessarily mean I am not cooking or doing washing or heating my flat all day, but thankfully this isn’t the case.

Also, can someone please advise how often I can expect someone to come so I can have my meter readings to be taken seeing as, unfortunately, I appear to have the wrong type of smart meter.


Bulb seem to always greatly over-estimate your usage, even when they have regular readings. Bulb never read meters, you will have to read your own every month and submit.

The best solution is calculate what is correct yourself, phone them and tell them to set that.

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Are you sure it is never?

Hi @Annoyed,

Our monthly estimates are based on your Estimated Annual Consumption (EAC) for electric and Annual Quantity (AQ) figure for gas. These are regulated figures based on historic data so we’re not able to change these if the estimates are too high.

The only way to reduce these high estimates would be to submit regular readings. This over time would lower these regulated figures.

I would recommend thinking about a smart meter as this would automatically send in reading for you.

When you say the best solution is to calculate yourself, do you mean entering a meter reading? If so, I agree this is the best way to overcome high estimates. However, if you mean calculate the number you think it should be, please never do this. It could be considered energy theft and action may be taken for this.

Also, we do send independent meter readers once a year. They double-check the meter reading is correct and matches our records.

Even if you provide regular reading to bulb for years they still insist on setting an inflated recommended payment.

Obviously I`m talking of calculating the costs yourself, why would you even think I meant making up meter readings!!

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Looking at the number of people reporting no end of hassle after switching to a smart meter, that looks like a very bad solution.

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Hi @Annoyed

So our suggested payment amount can be higher than average usage for a few reasons. Any account with us has a target account balance, which varies seasonally.

First and foremost, we take payments in advance, meaning a minimum expected balance would be 1 month’s payment.

We’d expect a significantly higher balance than that now, though. This is because we’re coming into winter months, when usage is a lot higher than the rest of the year. To avoid increasing payments significantly in winter/members falling into debt, we try make sure accounts go into winter with a high credit amount. That means we can leave payments the same year round.

I think it’s bad it has taken so long to get a response from actual Bulb employees/representatives to this thread I started 10 months ago.

Secondly, I have had nothing but problems from Day 1 with the same issue. Didn’t matter how many times I submitted readings I would still get account updates indicating I was over £100 in debit. I have had a couple of ladies try to help - and they talk a good game - but ultimately it ends in the same result.

Fortunately, in 18 days it will be my 12-month anniversary of being a Bulb customer. I should be expecting a meter reader seeing as they go to premises once a year. Shouldn’t I…

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I wouldn’t count on it just yet - I’ve been a Bulb customer for approximately 18 months, and have not seen a meter reader so far.

My previous suppliers did send one round every few years, even though I regularly submitted readings anyway (as I do now with Bulb), so ultimately I expect similar to happen with Bulb.

Of course, the pesky coronavirus environment is probably going to have some effect on this, as I doubt the meter readers have been out and about between at least mid-March and the end of June (say).

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The only time I ever see a meter reader, in as long as I can remember now, is when they push a card through the door saying sorry they missed me. They always call when I’m not in, and even if I am in I’m highly unlikely to answer the door to an unexpected caller.

The available options are then for me to read the meters, and either to leave the card visible in a window so they can see it when they return, or text the readings to the number they’ve given me. I’m unsure how this is considered any more reliable than the meter readings I supply every month.

We have been with bulb for many years, they have never read our meter.

This does not explain reality though, your annual usage is £1800, that means a monthly average of £150, you have a large credit balance yet they still state you need to pay £180 monthly keep the account in order!!

Bulbs formula seem to firstly ignore any credit balance, then add a good margin to the subsequent calculation to ensure you are over-paying ad infinitum.

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According to this OFGEM fact sheet: Suppliers are required to read and inspect your meter(s) at least every two years – although some suppliers may visit more frequently. There are other OFGEM documents relating to this two year period. I wonder if Morrisons Data Services still read meters on behalf of Bulb. Perhaps a Bulb employee can clear up any confusion about 2 yearly meter readings?

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Hi @Allanr,

Our independent meter readers (Morrisons Data Services) visit each Bulb property once a year.

However, for much of this year this was not possible due to the situation with coronavirus.