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Rising costs force seven in ten households to go without heating

Can you afford to keep the heating on? uSwitch research finds households going without heating due to cost.

fuel povertyNew research by uSwitch has revealed a crisis of affordability in Britain’s energy costs.

69% of householders have been forced to go without heating at some point this winter in order to keep their energy costs down, and two in ten having to do so regularly.

Over a third have found their quality of life or health decrease as a result of cutting back on their energy use – a 15% increase compared to last year.

What the research found

  • Seven in ten households have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy bills in check – almost two in ten (17%) are doing this regularly
  • Three quarters of households (74%) have cut down or rationed their energy use this winter because of the increased cost  almost nine in ten (88%) now consider the cost before switching their heating on
  • 87% are concerned about their forthcoming winter energy bill and 69% say that it will be less affordable than last year’s
  • 88% of people expect the cost of household energy to increase again this year
  • Over eight in ten consumers (81%) say that household energy is unaffordable in the UK today

The big energy suppliers raised their prices in 2012 adding hundreds to household energy bills. Previous uSwitch research found that energy prices have risen five times faster than average income:

Energy rationing is likely to disproportionately hit vulnerable homes as temperatures reach sub-zero temperatures, with 44% saying they have gone cold at home this winter due to the high cost of energy.

The research raises concerns that the UK is reaching an affordability ceiling in energy costs.

Rocketing prices

In 2004, the average household energy bill cost an average of £522. This year that average annual cost has rocketed to £1,352 – a 159% increase leaving nine in ten concerned about recent costs.

Energy suppliers have already warned that rising wholesale gas costs, green energy taxes and infrastructure maintenance are likely to keep pushing up the cost of energy, despite over eight in ten consumers saying that household energy is already unaffordable.

Although 88% of consumers say they expect further price rises research has identified an ‘energy affordability ceiling’ of £1,500 a year beyond which the majority of consumers will start to suffer. A

t this point almost six in ten households would be going without adequate heating and almost four in ten would be forced to turn their heating off entirely.   

Affordability crisis

ann robinson

Ann Robinson, uSwitch Director of Consumer Policy

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at, says: “When it comes to household energy Britain has run slap bang into an affordability crisis –  households are going without heating in the depths of winter for fear of running up a large bill.

“This severe level of rationing can have serious consequences – in fact over a third of consumers (35%) say that cutting back on energy is affecting their quality of life or health. This is unacceptable.

“The average household energy bill today is £1,352 a year. Grid upgrade costs and Government policies could see this increase to over £1,400 a year. At £1,500 a year we will see a majority of households going without adequate heating and almost four in ten forced to turn their heating off entirely – we are just a hair’s breadth away.

“With the cost of energy escalating, I would urge consumers to take two simple steps to protect themselves. Firstly, ensure that you are on the cheapest possible tariff.

“There is currently just under £250 a year difference between the cheapest and the most expensive deals on the market and as switching suppliers only takes three to five weeks to take effect, there’s still time to make substantial savings this winter.”

“Secondly, now more than ever is the time to take energy efficiency and home insulation seriously. This is a safe way of cutting the amount of energy you use and those who need help and support with this should look at the Government’s recently launched Green Deal scheme.”

Responding to uSwitch’s press release a spokesperson from the Home Heat Helpline said:

“There is a lot of help out there for any family struggling to pay their energy bills this winter. We would urge anyone with concerns to call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99. It’s a free, impartial and independent service designed to ensure that you get all the help with energy bills that you qualify for.

“Energy companies offer discounts, rebates and help with insulation and other energy efficiency measures to those customers who need it most. Call today to check you’re claiming all you’re entitled to.”

How people are keeping warm this winter instead of putting on the heating

How respondents say they are keeping warm while rationing their energy:

Dressing in more layers 84%
Wrapping up in a blanket while sitting down 55%
Using an extra duvet in bed 52%
Drinking hot drinks 50%
Doing housework/cleaning or some other activity 40%
Left the oven door open after cooking 38%
Visiting family/friends or public places such as libraries/coffee bars 17%

Learn more

 How to save energy and cut your energy bills

  • JonCa

    My monthly bills with Scottish Power are a whisker short of £10 per day, this puts us well into the Fuel Poverty domain. So yes all sorts of cost reducing measures are implemented, typically heating when its on does not go above 17 degrees in the occupied rooms and lower elsewhere. Then its down to dressing sensibly to keep warm. Our biggest eye-opener has been finding people who only have low tog duvets, on ours we use brushed cotton duvet covers and an eiderdown. Yes we do have a large home but the costs are horrendous and its very difficult to get good energy management information / guidance.

    • Big Al


      • JonCa

        Certainly being considered

  • mike

    I live in an appartment, where the energy is all electric, my heating i dare not use as it is the convector type, they use far too much energy, iam using top up key meter, and have just switched to british gas through u switch. I now have to sort out my heating, also i use extra blankets etc when i sleep.

  • Big Al

    The requirement that Energy companies produce “Green Energy” not only raises the price but also stops Global warming. With a bit more global warming we wouldnt need so much gas. From where I am sitting global warming is a god send.

    • JonCa

      So you like global warming cos it keeps you warm !! trust your altitudes not to low, don’t want wet feet 🙂

      • Big Al

        Buy your smaller home on a hill and you will be sorted. I bet there are more people in the world that would benefit from a warmer plant than suffer. Think of all the frozen wastes of Siberia and Canada that would grow crops. There aren’t many people living in Russia that would benefit. But it isn’t politically correct to point out that most people would benefit.

  • here something i’m questioning. The prices are going up and so therefore people are turning off the heating all together … how does the energy companies get the money it needs to make green fuel changes besides increasing rates for those still using energy? eventually, they’ll turn off the heating too … then what? Looks a bit like the story of the golden goose …

  • Overtone

    Among the people putting on extra clothing or another duvet or wrapping up in a blanket there’ll certainly be some who can’t afford all the heating they need to keep warm, but there’ll be others who used to just splurge on the heating so they could go round in summer clothes or didn’t bother about a thicker duvet during colder seasons, or didn’t give a thought about how much energy they were wasting as long as they could afford it. Did some of them keep the heating on all night? If they are among those now turning it off at certain times in order to save money they may not deserve much sympathy.

  • bob

    you must have a certain amount of heat in the home to prevent dampness which is obviously detrimental to your health, the U.K. has 200 years worth of coal, we have nuclear power, wind power, wave power, north sea gas, we are abundant in energy, so why are we being shafted with bad policies and high prices, we export and receive electricity to Europe, we get gas from Norway to supplement our own when needed, we have the ability to be self sufficient, so why are we not, that is something you will have to ask your M.E.P. as our energy policies are dictated by the E.U.

  • chris

    its interesting when you see how much profit the energy companys make. We have a baby and we need to keep the house between 16-20degrees. Not easy or cheap. Energy companies need to do something. No wonder people bypass their meters

  • Chestymary

    It seems that the public are in a catch 22 situation. If we cut down our units used, then the energy companies jack up the prices to compensate for the fall in revenue. When there were only a couple suppliers for energy, there were only a couple of fat cats at the top of each energy supplier. Now we have dozens of companies, that equates to dozens of fat cats and dozens of offices, computer systems, pensions etc etc to run . Selling them off was supposed to open up the competition thereby keeping prices down. The exact opposite has happened….it is a disgrace and government decisions at their worse.