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Average energy/water use of adults vs children?
March 31, 2011 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I live in a house shared amongst 10 tenants, including 2 children, aged 12 and 8. We're trying to figure out a fair way to divide electricity/gas/water bills. Specifically, how much less utilities should the children be charged for, and until which age?

I've searched facts and figures on this topic, but have come up very empty handed, with only stats available being on a per capita basis...
My gut feeling/daily observation tells me that the kids actually look like they're using a lot more energy than most of the adults, since they require a lot of laundry being done/leave the lights on all the time/are actually at home a lot more often than most of the adults with jobs.
The parents of the kids are now paying half price for the children, and would like to keep it that way... indefinitely?
Their oldest turned 12 this year, which looked to me like a good cut-off mark.
I'd like to back up my arguments at the next house meeting with good sources or figures, or at least what the "industry standard" is for these type of issues?
For instance, in most restaurants here, the kids menu is available for children under 12...
I'm in Amsterdam, NL, if this is relevant. Thanks!
posted by PardonMyFrench to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Divide the bill by the number of tenants regardless of their minority. As you say, they use water just as much as the other people sharing the space.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:15 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


To clarify, their age means little in this scenario. They wash, use power and resources as much as the next person. In any shared house, we have done exactly this and it was expected. [I don't want to get into other aspects of shared living arrangements with kids that requires sacrifices on the part of adults sharing the space with minors]
posted by honey-barbara at 5:18 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


kids actually look like they're using a lot more energy than most of the adults, since they require a lot of laundry being done/leave the lights on all the time/are actually at home a lot more often than most of the adults with jobs.

Yes, and they might use more electronic gadgets like video games. They might use a night light. And so on.

So, why do you ask "how much less utilities should the children be charged for"?

I would just ask for equality. Those who want something other than equality have the burden to make the argument that they should get a special arrangement. It's as if you had 10 adults sharing the space and one was arguing, "Well, I should only pay 8%, not 10%, because I use less electricity." That person would have an uphill battle in making this case, since the others wouldn't need to have any specific evidence of anything; they could always fall back on the equality principle.

I fail to see the relevance of who can order from a kids' menu in restaurants! That won't convince anyone.
posted by John Cohen at 5:24 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "industry standard" where I live is that it's illegal to charge tenants for utilities that aren't separately metered. The situation in Amsterdam may be completely different, of course, but it could be worth looking into your local tenancy law.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:26 AM on March 31, 2011


The "industry standard" where I live is that it's illegal to charge tenants for utilities that aren't separately metered. The situation in Amsterdam may be completely different, of course

It is. A great many leases in the Netherlands are 'all-in' arrangements where you pay for rent + utilities (electric, Internet etc) in one payment. One never sees the meter to know whether this is a good deal, but by golly it saves a crapton of hassle.

To the OP: divide evenly.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:31 AM on March 31, 2011


Thanks for the answers so far!
To clarify, we're all sharing utilities costs perfectly legally, we fall under a special category of social housing called " woongroep" in the Netherlands, where we are expected to live happily ever after, and handle these types of things amongst the members of the house as we see fit...

The parents + kids have lived in this house the longest, the children were born in the house and have had this half utilities cost arrangement set up with previous housemates before i moved in.
I think it's not reflecting the reality, and while i cannot completely scrape off their previous arrangement, I was hoping i could back up my argument that after X age, the kids count as adults... with some kind of fact other than my gut feeling... it would certainly help making the next house meeting easier, if we could recalculate the splitting according to facts instead of my own vindictive feelings against the family... ( all the other tenants are single 20 somethings ).

Hope this add-on can give you more insight in the situation, if anything, i might print out this thread as backup for the next house meeting...
posted by PardonMyFrench at 5:48 AM on March 31, 2011



The "industry standard" where I live is that it's illegal to charge tenants for utilities that aren't separately metered. The situation in Amsterdam may be completely different, of course, but it could be worth looking into your local tenancy law.


The OP says its a SHARE HOUSE not a landlord / tenant arrangement. So clearly the tenants have agreed amongst themselves to split the Utilities.

I would probably ask them to clarify in what ways the children use less Energy, Water, or Gas.

Is there a House Telephone? or TV? I imagine that children of that age would not be spending much time on the Telephone or really watching quite as much TV as the Adults / in the evening.
posted by mary8nne at 5:53 AM on March 31, 2011


I imagine that children of that age would not ... really watching quite as much TV as the Adults / in the evening.

Why does it matter whether the TV is watched in the evening? You really think 8- and 12-year-old kids watch relatively little TV??
posted by John Cohen at 6:00 AM on March 31, 2011


I think your problem is political rather than practical. Obviously the kids should not be getting a discount. The challenge is how to make the change.

How are decisions made? Do you vote on them?
posted by jon1270 at 6:04 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Additional info:

We are sharing Electricity/water/gas (mandatory since we have one common meter) and then one common money pot for things like laundry detergent, oil and spices, replacing appliances (vacuum cleaner, washing machine), daily newspaper, cleaning lady, plants for the terrace etc...
There is a shared TV in the house, but noone watches it much.

We're not really interested in nitpicking about how much everyone actually uses at all times, that's besides the point of shared housing, but the half-price deal for kids that is currently in place also seems pretty extreme to me...
posted by PardonMyFrench at 6:07 AM on March 31, 2011


Yes, and they might use more electronic gadgets like video games. They might use a night light. And so on.

Running a video game for a month takes about as much energy as running a hair dryer for about three seconds (I'm exaggerating but the discrepancy really is huge) so don't even bring that sort of thing up as you're going to be mired in a lot of pointless math. The big draws of electricity are refrigeration and anything involving making heat.

For heating the amount of space being used and the insulation of said space is the issue. You could create a fraction for everyone by dividing the common areas evenly and the adding a percentage representing everyone's private space (divided by how many people share that space in the case of couples or parents with kids).

But, as Jon1270 said, this is mostly going to be political so I'd do a quick back of the envelope calculation and see if the fight was worth it first.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:13 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, divide equally.

I'm sure your co-tenants are nice people, but they're not really playing fair. Kids generate laundry, take showers, eat cooked food and use computers/electronics just as much as adults. There's no reason for them not to be paying their full share.

But your real problem is that the parents have had it good for a long time, and as the oldest housemates, they're going to feel as though they have the right to keep the status quo. I'm not sure that you're going to be able to talk them around on this without a lot of hard feelings. I would definitely discuss it with your other housemates first, so it can become less about you vs the parents and more of a general discussion about how utilities are split, but you may find the parents basically say "No" and there's not a whole lot you can do.

I wish I had a better answer for you. Hopefully somebody else will.
posted by Georgina at 6:15 AM on March 31, 2011


Kid Charlemagne says this well: how much are you potentially saving vs how much strife it is going to cause. I would add that you are opening yourself up to the other roommates nickel and diming you out of something once you have thrown the first punch in an unresolvable "who pays what" brawl.

Do the couple share a room? Shouldn't they pay less? Do you stay up late and keep lights on? Do you flush the toilet more than twice a day? If the kids pay full share, should they then get a full vote in household affairs? Or should their parents get four votes? How does that affect the landscape? Once the status quo is gone, everyone can jockey for position again, and that is a hard place to be in. Make sure it is worth it.

One way you could soften this is, perhaps, to raise the issue for a FUTURE date. "when the kid turns 14" - it doesn't have the shock of, "you want us to pay more NOW?", and seems forward thinking, instead of reactive.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:47 AM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


One way you could soften this is, perhaps, to raise the issue for a FUTURE date. "when the kid turns 14" - it doesn't have the shock of, "you want us to pay more NOW?", and seems forward thinking, instead of reactive.

I was going to suggest this - make it "I think it would be a good idea for you to pay more at a defined point sometime in the not distant but not immediate future" thing instead of "I think you should pay more immediately".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2011


Everyone should get charged equally for utilities.

Think about the things that count the most:

Heating the house - the same amount of energy is being used by everyone to keep up the same temperature for everyone. It just does not even compute on any level on how/why the kids take up less energy in this situation.

Water - You could argue that kids use less water to wash but really? Baths take up a lot of water (assuming they take baths), much more so than a 5 min shower that grown ups take. Toilet - a flush is a flush regardless who went.

Gas or electricity for cooking/fridge - If anything the family should get charged more, they are probably cooking more often and storing more items in the fridge, but nobody needs to be that petty and splitting it evenly just makes sense.

I agree that this is mainly about how you bring it up.
posted by like_neon at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2011


I'd be inclined to look at it a different way, and divide it up based on how many rooms each person has. So, if the family of four shares 2 rooms out of 8, they get 1/4 of the utilities. It seems like heating is most likely the most expensive utility, and that isn't dependent on the number of people, but rather the amount of space.

Also, if you are looking for a cutoff, 16 might be a good choice, or whatever the legal working age is, since right now the kids have no way of bringing in an income to pay for extra costs.

The previous point asking whether or not the kids get a vote in household affairs is also valid. If they are being charged, they should get a vote (and that may not be something you want to deal with)

This may not be the accurate way to measure things, but this is how I would do it.
posted by markblasco at 7:18 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


PardonMyFrench writes "The parents + kids have lived in this house the longest, the children were born in the house and have had this half utilities cost arrangement set up with previous housemates before i moved in. "

All the arguments pro or con about whether kids should be charged at a lesser rate are moot because the arrangement you agreed to when you moved in was that kids would be charged half. The crux is when kids stop being kids under this agreement and is something you'll just have to hash out. At one end one could use whatever you government regulation is (here it's 18). The low end is going to vary wildly but I'd think a reasonable low bound would be 13. dirtdirt's suggestion to put the change date into the future is a good one and also his warning that if you start charging kids a full share they should be considered full members of the household either directly or by proxy. Depending on how your other costs are split that could mean a full vote to every person paying a full share.

If it was me in a dictatorial position I'd set the cut off at the age kids can start working unrestricted (here 15) or when they can drive (here 16) but any social coming of age point would work.

markblasco writes " I'd be inclined to look at it a different way, and divide it up based on how many rooms each person has. So, if the family of four shares 2 rooms out of 8, they get 1/4 of the utilities. It seems like heating is most likely the most expensive utility, and that isn't dependent on the number of people, but rather the amount of space."

The problem there is that many of the expenses they are sharing (kitchen supplies, laundry supplies, capital improvement and maintenance costs on equipment) are dependent on the square footage being used. I'd see a split by square footage as grossly unfair in this situation (And if the parents are sharing a room and the kids are sharing a room it might actually result in the family paying less of a share).
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the drinkwater: do you have a water meter, or are you paying the 'abonnementsbedrag' based on the size of your residence? If the latter, I would just let it go - it's not a huge amount of money, especially when divided amongst so many people.

When it comes to the Waterschapsbelasting, assuming that in a woongroep you still only have to pay the standard 'meerpersoonshuishouden' rate, I would just let it go - we're only talking a couple of euros savings per person per year here, max, so it's hardly worth the hassle of bringing it up.

I agree with earlier posters who said that setting a date in the future for 'adulthood' is a good idea. I'd suggest 16 - you can drink, you can pay your way! Not so much because I think it's 'fair', but because it's most likely to keep things peaceful and harmonious, which is worth an awful lot when it comes to your home life.

A great many leases in the Netherlands are 'all-in' arrangements where you pay for rent + utilities (electric, Internet etc) in one payment. One never sees the meter to know whether this is a good deal, but by golly it saves a crapton of hassle.

It's worth mentioning that all-in rent is not legal and by law all components of the rent need to be separately itemised. See your local Steunpuntwonen for more info on this.
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:51 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever you decide, the real question is: what happens when other roomates start having kids?
posted by vitabellosi at 8:23 AM on March 31, 2011


The cutoff age itself is relatively arbitrary. It could be seven, it could be seventeen. One way to go about this would be to show up at the meeting without a predefined age in mind. Bring the matter up in the form of a question.

"What do y'all think would be an appropriate age for children to be charged full-price for utilities?"

Then you can all figure it out together, among the members of your household.
posted by aniola at 8:53 AM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I happen to know (don't ask why) that in the year after my son was born my water bill went up by 65%, and my electric bill went up by about 26%. (This is in the US.)

So I actually think the 1/2 charge for kids is pretty much on the mark.
posted by anastasiav at 9:37 AM on March 31, 2011


Anastasiav, the kids in question are not infants. They probably bathe independently. They can reach the light switches.
posted by jon1270 at 10:18 AM on March 31, 2011


[folks could you answer the OPs question and not just tell them "it's not worth it"? OP is not anonymous, you can MeMail them.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:21 PM on March 31, 2011


When I lived with a couple and their kid, we each paid 1/3 and the kid was free. I only lived with them until he was 2, though, so perhaps that would have changed as he got older. I think marcblasco's idea of charging by the bedroom is probably a good one, but that could actually lead to the family paying less.

I think once the kids are beyond infancy/toddlerhood, they probably should be part of the household headcount. I can't think of a politically wise way to present that, however. aniola's idea to ask at the meeting for what age everyone thinks they should pay full share is a good way around it. Do you know other shared households in your town? Perhaps they have a model that you could apply to your situation. You should ask around your community and get some consensus before you bring it up. Or perhaps some online resources.

Also, getting some agreement from your other roommates before your next meeting might be good, but make sure you do it in a way that doesn't sound like you're all ganging up on the family (even though, really, you are).
posted by clone boulevard at 10:10 PM on April 1, 2011


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