Press release:

Home alone dogs adding £232 million to energy bills

  • UK dog owners spend £232 million on energy each year leaving on TVs, radios, lighting, heating and fans for their dogs[1]
  • More than eight in ten (82%) owners leave on at least one appliance in the hope of providing comfort and company for their dog when they leave the house[2]
  • But Battersea Dogs & Cats Home voices concern for pets left home alone with only appliances for company
  • Dogs watch around 214 hours of TV per year – equivalent to more than two years’ of EastEnders – with BBC One the most-watched channel[3]
  • They also listen to almost 300 hours of radio – enough for over 1,000 episodes of The Archers[4] – with easy listening stations the top choice
  • Dog owners could be overpaying £45 million per year by not switching to the best energy deal[5]
  • Tropical fish and tortoises among most energy intensive household pets[8].

The nation’s dog owners spend an estimated £232 million a year on energy by leaving on electrical items while they leave the home, according to a new survey by uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service[1].

It’s well known that the UK is a nation of animal lovers, so it’s little surprise that dog owners worry about their pet’s wellbeing when left alone. In the hope of providing some canine companionship, more than eight in ten (82%) owners leave on at least one appliance when they leave home[2]. Keeping the lights on is most common (61%), followed by the heating in winter (60%), the radio (47%), fans in summer (46%) and the TV (42%)[1].

Dog owners who leave the TV on for their pet do so for an average of 214 hours per year – enough time to watch two years’ worth of EastEnders[3]. Across all dog-owning households, this adds up to over 583 million hours of TV per year. One in three (29%) owners who leave the TV on choose BBC One, making it the most popular channel for dogs, followed by ITV1 (25%). Four per cent choose to leave on Dog TV, making it as popular among canines as Channel 4 (4%) and more popular than Channel 5 (2%)[3].

According to the new figures, owners also leave on radios for their dogs for 298 hours per year – the equivalent of 1,192 episodes of The Archers – with easy listening stations the top choice (32%) followed by pop music (23%) and talk radio (17%)[4].

But Battersea Dogs & Cats Home warns that, whilst many owners may believe they’re providing for their pets’ needs by leaving on appliances, TVs and radios are no substitute for human company and regular exercise. The charity is urging the public to think carefully before rehoming a dog or cat, and to take steps to ensure their pet is cared for when they can’t be at home with it.

Battersea’s Head of Canine Behaviour & Training, Ali Taylor, says: “Dogs are generally sociable animals and crave company. So many pets suffer from insecurity problems and separation related problems when their owner leaves them alone in the home and this can result in destructive behaviour or signs of depression. Whilst owners may think that leaving a TV or radio on will provide some form of noise distraction and company, the reality is that this is definitely no substitute for human companionship. Dogs in particular need to get out and about to meet and socialise with other people and animals and to enjoy all the sights, smells and sounds that our streets and parks have to offer.”

The amount of energy used by pet owners is set to increase as people invest in bigger and better TV sets, as well as a host of gadgets designed specifically for dogs. According to the research, one in three (29%) dog owners plan to buy their dog some sort of electric gadget – including home monitoring cameras (11%), GPS trackers (10%) and even canine activity trackers to help keep them fit (7%)[6].

The survey also found that 28% of owners put the needs of their dog above their own. Almost one in three (29%) say that they love their dog more than some other family members and a quarter (25%) would even be happy to cook them homemade meals[7].

While dogs contribute to household energy bills, they are not the most energy intensive pet to keep at home. Tropical fish – which require dedicated tanks, filters and lighting – top the chart, costing up to £494 of energy a year, or almost half the average standard big six energy bill.

Table: energy intensive pets

Pet Estimated annual energy cost
Tropical fish £494
Koi carp £345
Corn snake £252
Bearded dragon/geckos £134
Tortoises £82
Dogs £36

Source: uSwitch.com research[8]

Claire Osborne, uSwitch.com energy expert, says: “There’s never been any doubt that we Brits love our dogs like family and these figures show how much we like to pamper them, even when we’re not at home. But while dog owners may have the best intentions at heart, it’s important to heed the advice of vets and animal experts and avoid leaving pets home alone for extended periods of time. And, when electrical devices are left on unattended, there’s an impact on energy bills as well as increased safety risks.

“We’d also encourage dog owners to check whether they could be saving £337 a year – which could be enough to pay for a year’s worth of dog food – just by switching energy provider.”

For more information please visit our Pet Power page.

— ends —

Notes to editors

  1. Energy spend calculation based on dog owners’ responses to leaving on lights, heating, TV, radio or fans for their dog when they leave the home, and averages for energy consumption and energy price.
    • 61% of respondents said they leave the lights on. On average, these respondents did so for an additional 555.66 hours per year. This adds up to £20.4 million for all dog owning households who leave the lights on.
    • 60% of respondents said they leave the heating on. On average, these respondents did so for an additional 372.89 hours per year. This adds up to £201.5 million for all dog owning households who leave the heating on.
    • 42% of respondents said they leave the TV on. On average, these respondents did so for an additional 214.48 hours per year. This adds up to £5.7 million for all dog owning households who leave the TV on.
    • 47% of respondents said they leave the radio on. On average, these respondents did so for an additional 297.99 hours per year. This adds up to £140,671 for all dog owning households who leave the radio on.
    • 46% of respondents said they leave a fan on. On average, these respondents did so for an additional 214.14 hours per year. This adds up to £4.2 million for all dog owning households who leave a fan on.
    • Therefore, total additional energy spend for all dog-owning households is £232 million. Average additional spend per dog owning household is £232 million / 6.48m households = £35.8m
  2. When asked what they leave on for their dog when they leave their home, 82% said that they either leave on lights, heating, TV, radio or fans
  3. 42% of respondents said they leave the TV on for their dog when they leave their home. On average, these respondents left the TV on for an additional 214.48 hours per year. When asked what channel they leave it on, 29% said BBC One, 25% said ITV1, 4% said Channel 4, 4% said Dog TV and 2% said Channel 5
  4. 47% of respondents said they leave the radio on for their dog when they leave their home. On average, these respondents left the radio on for an additional 297.99 hours per year. When asked what style of radio station they leave it on, 32% said easy listening, 23% said pop music 17% said talk radio
  5. 70% of all consumers are on the average big six deal, and the difference between best deal and average big six deal is 28%. Therefore 70% of dog owning households (4.536 million households) could save £10.024 each (28% of average £35.8 spend on pet energy). Therefore total potential saving is 4.536 million x £10.024 = £45.468 million
  6. When asked if they plan to buy any pet gadgets, 29% said they plan to buy either a water fountain, automatic feeder, electric pet door, electric pet groomer, jet washer, dog treadmill, home monitoring camera, GPS tracker, activity tracker, electric toy or plug-in pheromone spray. 11% said they plan to buy a home monitoring camera, 10% said they plan to buy a GPS tracker and 7% said they plan to buy a pet activity tracker
  7. 25% of respondents said they agree with the phrase ‘I’d be happy to cook homemade meals for my dog’. 28% agreed with the phrase ‘I put the needs of my dog above my own’ and 29% agreed with the phrase ‘I love my dog more than some other members of my family’
  8. Pet energy costs based on estimated annual energy consumption of several necessary pet accessories:
    1. For tropical fish: tropical aquarium, including filter for tank, lighting and heater
    2. For Koi carp: pond pump
    3. For corn snakes: under tank heater, solar glow vapour lamp
    4. For Bearded Dragons / geckos: heat lamp, UV bulb and heat mat
    5. For tortoises: solar glow vapour lamp.

About us

uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, home phone, broadband, digital television, mobile phones and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, current accounts and insurance.

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