Press release:

Move over Dad – Brits now prefer to ask the internet for household help

  • New research from uSwitch.com reveals that Brits are more likely to ask Google, YouTube or Siri for help with basic household tasks like bleeding radiators than Mum or Dad[1]
  • The equivalent of over 12 million people don’t know where their gas main valve is located and almost ten million can’t locate their water meter[2]
  • Some basic household tasks are neglected entirely – almost one in five (18%) have never bled a radiator and over one in ten (15%) have never rewired a plug[3]
  • Worryingly, over in one in ten (14%) admit they’ve never changed the batteries in their smoke alarm[3]
  • Young adults are the least confident when carrying out household tasks, with almost one in eight (12%) admitting they struggle to change a light bulb[4]. 

Brits would rather ask the Internet than their parents for help with key household tasks like bleeding the radiator and turning off the gas supply, according to new research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service.

Almost one in three adults (28%) turn to Google, YouTube or virtual personal assistants like Apple’s Siri for help, compared to one in five (23%) who take the more traditional route of asking their Dad and one in ten (9%) who ask their Mum[1].

According to the findings, millions of consumers could also be putting themselves in danger by not being able to locate essential items in an emergency. Almost a quarter (24%) of adults – equivalent to 12 million people – don’t know where to find their gas main valve, while almost a fifth (19%) – equivalent to almost ten million people – can’t locate their water meter[2].

Table: Top five household items Brits struggle to find

  Item Percentage of adults who can’t locate Equivalent to
1 Gas main valve 24% 12.3 million people
2 Water meter 19% 9.8 million people
3 Cold water tank 18% 9.4 million people
4 Water stopcock 16% 8.4 million people
5 Immersion heater 14% 7.4 million people

Source: uSwitch survey, August 2016[2]

Being unaware of the location of essential household items can also negatively impact consumers’ pockets. The research found that over 2.6 million people don’t know where their electricity meter is and over three million can’t find their gas meter[2]. Providing up to date meter readings is the best way for customers to ensure they’re only charged for the energy they actually use. Not knowing the location of energy meters increases the risk of inaccurate bills and consumers finding themselves in significant debt or credit with their suppliers.

In addition, there are several essential basic household tasks that many Brits admit to having never attempted. Most worryingly, 14% say they’ve never changed the battery in their smoke alarm, despite Government fire safety advice recommending that batteries are changed every year. Almost one in three (27%) have never cleaned the gutters, almost one in five (18%) haven’t bled a radiator and over one in ten (15%) have never rewired a plug[3].

According to the findings, young adults – many of whom will be starting to live on their own for the first time – have the poorest knowledge of the home. The research found that almost half (47%) of 18-24 year olds don’t know how to turn off the water supply, almost a third (31%) struggle to set the central heating timer and almost a quarter (23%) are unsure how to read an energy meter. Young adults are also struggling with some of the most basic tasks – with almost one in eight (12%) admitting they don’t know how to change a light bulb[4].

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s important that Brits feel confident when managing their home. Today’s findings highlight just how many of us don’t know how to locate or shut off utilities, which can be dangerous in an emergency. We are often deterred from carrying out essential tasks because they seem complicated and tedious, but they are usually quick to do and there’s lots of help available to show you how.

“Being in full control of your household can not only make life easier, but it could also save you hundreds of pounds a year. It’s important to know the location of your energy meters and provide regular, up to date readings – it’s the only way to make sure you only pay for what you use and avoid the risk of falling into significant credit or debt.”

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was conducted online by Opinium between 22nd – 26th July 2016, among 2,005 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+). There are 51.339 million UK adults in the UK (source: ONS).

1. When asked ‘Who do you tend to turn to for help when you don’t know how to carry out essential housing tasks?’, 28% of respondents answered ‘Google’, ‘YouTube’ or ‘Siri/other virtual PA’, 23% said ‘Dad’ and 9% said ‘Mum’

 
2. When asked if they knew where the following household items were located:
a. 24% of respondents, equivalent to 12.3 million people, didn’t know where their gas main valve is
b. 19% of respondents, equivalent to 9.8 million people, didn’t know where their water meter is
c. 18% of respondents, equivalent to 9.4 million people, didn’t know where their cold water tank is
d. 16% of respondents, equivalent to over 8.4 million people, didn’t know where their water stopcock is
e. 14% of respondents, equivalent to 7.4 million people, didn’t know where their immersion heater is
f. 6% of respondents, equivalent to over 3 million people, didn’t know where their gas meter is
g. 5% of respondents, equivalent to over 2.6 million people, didn’t know where their electricity meter is
h. 4% of respondents, equivalent to over 2 million people, didn’t know where their electricity fuse box is
i. 3% of respondents, equivalent to over 1.4 million people, didn’t know where their wi-fi router is

 
3. When asked ‘How often, if ever, do you pay someone to do the following tasks?’:
a. In reference to bleeding a radiator, 18% of respondents said ‘my friends, family or I have never done this task or paid someone to do this task’
b. In reference to rewiring a plug, 15% of respondents said ‘my friends, family or I have never done this task or paid someone to do this task’
c. In reference to changing the batteries in the smoke alarm, 14% of respondents said ‘my friends, family or I have never done this task or paid someone to do this task’
d. In reference to cleaning the gutters, 27% of respondents said ‘my friends, family or I have never done this task or paid someone to do this task’
e. In reference to cleaning their bathroom, 10% of respondents said ‘my friends, family or I have never done this task or paid someone to do this task’

 
4. When asked ‘How confident are you at doing each of the following tasks?’
a. 12% of 18-24 year old respondents said they did not feel confident changing a lightbulb
b. 47% of 18-24 year old respondents said they did not feel confident turning off the water supply
c. 31% of 18-24 year old respondents said they did not feel confident putting the heating on a timer
d. 23% of 18-24 year old respondents said they did not feel confident reading their gas or electricity meter

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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