Skip to main content

Sub-zero temperatures but seven in ten households have gone without heating this winter to save on bills

New research reveals the high price that consumers are being forced to pay this winter as Britain teeters on the edge of an energy affordability crisis. Almost seven in ten households (69%) have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy costs down, while over a third of people (35%) say that cutting back on energy usage is affecting their quality of life or health – up from 15% last year:

  • 69% of 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 – 69% say that it will be less affordable than last year’s

  • Amidst warnings of a further £60 going onto household energy bills this year, 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.

This winter’s round of energy price hikes has led to a staggering number of households rationing their energy use to cut costs, according to new research by Uswitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. Despite sub-zero temperatures, almost seven in ten households (69%) have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy bills down. Almost two in ten (17%) admit to doing this regularly.

As Britain edges ever closer to an affordability crisis, three quarters of households (74%) have cut down or rationed their energy usage this winter because of the increased cost. Consumers are being forced to compromise on their comfort, health and well-being. Over a third (35%) say that cutting back on energy usage is affecting their quality of life or health – up from 15% last year,while 44% say they have gone cold at home this winter due to the high cost of energy. Such is the concern that almost nine in ten (88%) consider the cost before switching their heating on.

The latest wave of price hikes by Britain’s big six suppliers has seen the average household energy bill rocket from £522 in 2004 to a record high of £1,352 this year. The impact of this eye-watering £830 or 159% increase has left consumers reeling. Almost nine in ten (87%) are concerned about their forthcoming winter energy bill – 69% say that it will be less affordable than last year’s.

Worryingly, over eight in ten consumers (81%) are already saying that household energy is unaffordable in the UK today. But they could be facing the tip of an iceberg. British Gas, Britain’s largest supplier, has openly warned that the cost of upgrading the national grid along with Government policies could see bills increasing again this year by a further £60.

And while almost nine in ten consumers (88%) are braced for further price hikes, 71% would be very concerned by this, and with good reason. A £60 increase would take the average household energy bill to an unprecedented level of over £1,400 a year. Research has identified an ‘energy affordability ceiling’ of £1,500 a year beyond which the majority of consumers will start to suffer. At this point almost six in ten households (59%) would be going without adequate heating and almost four in ten (36%) would be forced to turn their heating off entirely.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at Uswitch.com, **says**: “When it comes to household energy Britain has run slap bang into an affordability crisis – as a result, people are going cold. The cost of energy is now so high that 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.”

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

Dressing in more layers84%
Wrapping up in a blanket while sitting down55%
Using an extra duvet in bed52%
Drinking hot drinks50%
Doing housework/cleaning or some other activity40%
Left the oven door open after cooking38%
Visiting family/friends or public places such as libraries/coffee bars17%

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Jo Ganly

Phone: 020 7148 4662

Email: jo.ganly@uswitch.com

Twitter: @UswitchPR

Notes to editors

  1. In response to: ‘Have you gone without heating this winter to keep your energy costs down?’ 50.6% said ‘occasionally’, 16.5% said ‘regularly’, 1.7% said ‘always’. This adds up to 68.8% who went without heating at some point this winter.

  2. In response to: ‘Do you think you’re achieving the right balance this winter between keeping your home warm and managing costs?’ 34.9% said ‘No – the cutbacks I’m making are affecting my quality of life and/or health.’ Last year’s findings come from research conducted with the Uswitch.com Opinion Panel amongst 1,225 respondents in January 2012.

  3. In response to: ‘Have you cut down or rationed your energy use this winter due to the increased cost of energy?’ 74% said ‘yes’.

  4. In response to: ‘Do you consider the cost before switching your heating on?’ 48.7% said always and 38.8% said sometimes – these add up to 87.5%.

  5. In response to ‘Are you concerned about you winter energy bill?’ 86.8% said ‘yes’.

  6. In response to: ‘Thinking about this winter’s energy bill, which of the following do you agree with?’ 68.7% said ‘It will be less affordable than last year’s.’

  7. http://www.centrica.com/index.asp?pageid=29&newsid=2588 British Gas pricing announcement 12th October, 2012. In the section ‘Why prices are rising’ it says: “There are other costs behind energy bills, and these are also increasing.  Britain’s national grid requires a major upgrade, which is being funded through energy bills, and the costs of the Government’s policies that will ensure a clean, energy-efficient Britain, are also rising.  Together, these have added around £50 to the cost of supplying the average customer’s home this year, and are expected to add nearly £60 to the cost of supplying the average customer’s home next year.”

  8. In response to: ‘Do you expect the cost of household energy to increase again this year?’ 88% said ‘yes’.

  9. In response to: ‘Is household energy affordable in the UK today?’ 62.1% said unaffordable and 19.1% said very unaffordable. These add up to 81.2%.

  10. In response to: Have you gone cold at home this winter due to the high cost of energy?’ 44.2% said ‘yes’.

  11. Based on a medium usage customer using 3,300 kWh of electricity and 16,500 kWh of gas on a standard Dual Fuel bill, paying quarterly by cash or cheque with bill sizes averaged across all regions and the big six suppliers.

  12. In response to ‘How concerned would you be if energy prices increased again this year?’ 71% said ‘very’, 25.1% said ‘a little’.

  13. Research carried out in September 2011 with the Uswitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel amongst 2,295 adults with bill paying responsibility for gas and electricity in their household.  The £1,500 affordability tipping point is determined in two ways. Firstly, this is the point at which more than half of consumers (59%) believe energy will become unaffordable. Secondly, £1,500 is also the point at which there is a marked difference in consumer behaviour.

  14. Based on a medium user customer using 3,300 kWh of electricity and 16,500 kWh of gas – E.ON’s standard cash and cheque price from 18th January, 2013 is £1,370 a year on average while SSE’s Discount Energy Bonus April 2015 (with paperless billing) costs £1,134 a year on average – a saving of £236 a year.

  15. In response to: ‘Have you done any of the following to keep warm this winter rather than put on the heating?’ Tick all that apply.

About us

It’s all about “U”!

Thank you for indulging us over the last 20 years by using a small ‘u’ and a big ‘S’ when writing about our brand in your articles.

We are delighted to let you know that you are now off the hook - it’s big U’s all the way (and small s’s) as we undertake our biggest ever rebrand - so let your autocorrect go wild!

About Uswitch

Uswitch is the UK’s top comparison website for home services switching. Launched in September 2000, we help consumers save money on their gas, electricity, broadband, mobile, TV, and financial services products and get more of what matters to them. Last year we saved consumers over £373 million on their energy bills alone.

Uswitch is part of RVU, a new business that also owns Money.co.uk and Bankrate.

If you would no longer like to receive our press releases please email prteam@uswitch.com with 'unsubscribe'.