Press release:

One in ten consumers consider living without heating this winter to tackle high energy bills

  • More than half of Brits (54%) will ration their energy use this winter to tackle high energy bills[1], with one in ten (9%) admitting they would consider going without heating or hot water[2]
  • Almost half (45%) of those planning to ration energy believe it will negatively impact their family’s health[3]
  • Despite reductions in the cost of wholesale energy, a mere two per cent of consumers expect suppliers to drop prices this winter[4], with almost six in ten (58%) expecting price rises[5].

More than half (54%) of UK adults – the equivalent to 32 million people – admit they will ration their energy use this winter to keep a lid on energy bills, according to new figures from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service[1].

Ahead of what could be the UK’s coldest winter for 50 years, consumers have admitted that they will go to extreme lengths to keep bills down. A staggering one in ten (9%) would consider living without heating or hot water, 12% will only turn on the heating for special occasions[6], and 42% will turn on the heating later than usual[7].

The new figures are particularly concerning following recent data from ONS revealing that there were 43,900 excess deaths in England and Wales last winter – the highest number since 1999[8]. Worryingly, almost half (45%) of those who plan to ration their energy this winter think it will negatively impact their family’s health.

The cost of wholesale energy – which accounts for around half of bills – has fallen steadily over the past two years, yet a mere two per cent of consumers believe suppliers will pass on price cuts this winter[4]. To date, British Gas is the only big six supplier to make two reductions to standard energy tariffs this year, despite wholesale prices remaining at a five-year low.

Instead, nearly six in ten (58%) say they expect energy prices to go up this winter and half (48%) admit they worry about the impact price rises would have on their finances [9].

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: “Millions of households are terrified of switching the heating on this winter for fear of extortionate energy bills. Feeling warm at home is a basic need and it’s deeply concerning that so many plan to risk their health, simply because they cannot afford the energy they need.

“Wholesale energy costs continue to be at record lows, yet energy companies have refused to pass on the savings to those in desperate need. The huge increase in excess deaths last winter should act as a wake-up call for Government, suppliers, Ofgem and others to do more to help people make their homes more energy efficient.

“Consumers should consider taking some simple steps to stay warm and keep costs down rather than switching off the heating altogether. For example, only heat the rooms you are using and turn your thermostat down by just one degree. However, one of the biggest savings can come from switching to a better energy tariff, reducing the average bill by a staggering £300 a year.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Five money saving tips to avoid being left out in the cold this winter:

  1. Find out if your energy supplier owes you money

In September, the big six pledged to return £153m to past customers who had switched away whilst they were in credit. In some cases, companies have been unable to refund customers so contact your previous supplier to check if you’re owed any money.

  1. Switch to a cheaper energy deal

The easiest way to find a cheap energy provider is to run an energy comparison. All you need to do is grab a recent energy bill and enter your details along with your postcode.

  1. Get a smarter thermostat

These grant you with an unprecedented amount of control over your homes heating system. Simply provide them with data around your consumption and access to your heating system, and by learning your behaviour they adapt the home temperature accordingly.

  1. Create zones in your home

Instead of having just one thermostat – especially in a room you rarely occupy – install a number of thermostats allowing you to zone the temperature in different areas of your house.

  1. Time your heating

A timer allows you to schedule when your heating turns on and off over a 24-hour period. Some programmers give you even more options, allowing you to set different times and temperatures throughout the week. When you’re setting up your heating schedule, don’t forget to keep it switched off at times when you might be home and not need the heating on (e.g. overnight).

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 5,138 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th October and 4th November 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

  1. *When asked ‘Which one of the following statements BEST applies to you?’ 36% of respondents answered ‘I am already cutting back on the amount of energy I use to make my bills cheaper’ and 18% of respondents answered ‘I am planning to cut back on the amount of energy I use this winter to make my bills cheaper’. 36% + 18% = 54%. Population of UK adults is 60 million (UK Census 2011), therefore 54% of UK adult population = 32 million people
  2. *When asked ‘If you were faced with paying higher energy bills this winter, which, if any, of the following statements would apply to you?’ 9% of respondents answered ‘I would consider living without heating/ hot water’
  3. *When asked ‘You mention you have/ plan to cut back on the amount of energy you use to make your bills cheaper…To what extent, if at all, are you concerned that cutting back on your energy use may **negatively** impact your/ your family’s health this winter?’ 13% of respondents answered ‘Very concerned’ and 32% of respondents answered ‘Fairly concerned’. 13% + 32% = 45%
  4. *When asked ‘In general, which ONE of the following BEST describes what you expect will happen to energy prices this winter?’ 2% of respondents answered ‘I expect energy prices to go down’
  5. *When asked ‘In general, which ONE of the following BEST describes what you expect will happen to energy prices this winter?’ 58% of respondents answered ‘I expect energy prices to go up’
  6. *When asked ‘If you were faced with paying higher energy bills this winter, which, if any, of the following statements would apply to you?’ 12% answered ‘I would reserve turning the heating on for special occasions’
  7. *When asked ‘If you were faced with paying higher energy bills this winter, which, if any, of the following statements would apply to you?’ 42% of respondents answered ‘I would leave switching my heating on later than usual’
  8. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health2/excess-winter-mortality-in-england-and-wales/2014-15–provisional–and-2013-14–final-/index.html
  9. *When asked ‘In general, how worried, if at all, would you say you are about the cost of your energy bills this winter?’ 11% of respondents answered ‘Very Worried’ and 37% of respondents answered ‘Fairly Worried’. 11% + 37% = 48%

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

Customers can sign up to an account that automatically monitors the energy market and notifies them when they can move to a cheaper tariff, while broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and identify the best deal for their postcode.

The multi award-winning 'Switching Made Simple' app allows customers to compare energy, broadband, credit card, mobile and SIM-only deals – and uSwitch also has a UK contact centre manned by energy and broadband experts. Customers can post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH to receive a free call back and be guided through the comparison process, or they can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details.

uSwitch is owned by ZPG, which operates some of the UK’s most trusted digital brands that help empower smarter property and household decisions including Zoopla, Money, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes.

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