Before you can truly enjoy your French home, you’ll need to have your utilities connected and set up any automatic debit payments. When you buy your home, your estate agent will usually help you with the firts vital services. There are several water companies to choose from in France, although in smaller towns and villages there’s likely to be only a single provider. Water can be expensive, with costs varying between regions, and depending on whether you’ve mains drainage or a septic tank. Water meters are typically ready by suppliers once or twice a year, and the bill will detail your consumption and the charge per cubic metre. The bill usually also includes sanitation charges, unless the property has an independent septic tank, in which case there will be a periodic inspection by the sanitation regulator, Le Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif (SPANC), every four years or so.
France’s main supplier of domestic electricity is the state-owned Électricité de France (EDF) and there are also local co-operatives in rural areas. If your property doesn’t have existing electricity supply, EDF will connect you for a small fee. Ask them for a connection quote and they should connect you within a month providing that, if it’s required, the property has the correct planning permission to install a meter. The standard domestic electricity supply in France is single phase at 230 volts, though it isn’t uncommon to find a three-phase, 380-volt supply in larger properties.
There are two types of gas supply: mains (gaz de ville) from Gaz Réseau Distribution France (GrDF) or Gaz de France (GDF, which is part of EDF) and bottled gas (propane or butane).
Depending on your location, there may be restrictions on water use in case of shortage or during a hight-demand season.
There are two elements to your electricity bill or facture, which will arrive every two or sometimes three months. Firstly, the standing charge (abonnement), determined by the power supply installed and secondly, the consumption of electricity units. TVA, the French equivalent to VAT, is applied on the standing charge and the consumption. Local taxes (taxe commune/département) are added. You can pay your bills online, by mail via cheque or by phone using a credit card, and you can opt to have it debited from your bank account at each invoice deadline or prorated monthly.
With regards to gas, propane is more common as it’s more suited to external storage than butane. Also, the two types have different valve systems so they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. The bottles are all from different suppliers so when you return your empty container to the outlet you’ll only be able to purchase a new one of the same type. Not all outlets sell every suppliers’ bottles. It’s obviously a good idea to have at least one bottle of gas in reserve, to avoid panics when you run out unexpectedly.
When taking over your new property it’s sensible to make sure that all meters have been read before your new contracts begin.