Press release:

5 million homes set to swelter this winter in temperatures hotter than Tenerife

  • 6 million households will sizzle in homes warmer than Tenerife[1] this winter, potentially costing an extra £368 million[2]
  • Almost half (13 million) mistakenly turn up the thermostat in an attempt to heat their property more quickly[3], while 1.8 million homes keep the heating on for 24 hours a day[4]
  • 40% will wear more clothes to avoid putting the heating on[5], whereas 25% now use smart home technology to heat their homes more efficiently[6]
  • People in the north east of England admit to over-heating their homes the most, while households in south west England are least likely to do so[1]
  • uSwitch.com offers top tips to stay warm without breaking the bank[7]

This winter more than 4.6 million households in Britain will over-heat their homes above a toasty 21 degrees, the average temperature of Tenerife in June[1], according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

The average summertime temperature in the UK, when most households tend to refrain from using the central heating, is just 15 degrees[9], whereas during the colder months the recommended comfortable temperature inside properties is between 18 and 21 degrees[8]. However, when winter hits, millions of Brits are recreating the feeling of Spanish summers in their homes.

Turning up the dial by just one degree can add £80 to an annual bill[8], meaning that across the country, those who heat their homes more than they need to will potentially pay out an extra £368m.[2]

Regionally, people in the north east of England enjoy toasty temperatures the most, with a quarter of local households (25%) planning to crank the thermostat over 21 degrees. Londoners are also set to over-heat their properties, where just under a quarter (24%) will set the thermostat above 21. Wales is not far behind the capital with 22% heating homes to 22 degrees or higher, but the Scots are certainly more robust, with only 15% admitting to turning up the heat in their homes. Households in the south west of England seem to be the hardiest in the land, however, with only one in ten (11%) hiking the heating above 21 degrees[1].

According to the research, common misunderstandings about how household heating works are driving up the cost of our bills. Almost half (48%) of consumers admit to turning the thermostat up higher than necessary in an attempt to heat their home more quickly[3].However, this doesn’t work and simply wastes money due to the heating being on for longer than it needs to be in order to reach the higher temperature.

The research also revealed that households keep the heating on for an average of 6.6 hours a day[10]. Yet 7% – the equivalent of over 1.8 million homes – admit to keeping the heating on for a staggering 24 hours a day[4], thinking that it will be cheaper than using the timer to warm up their home when they actually need it.

But despite so many choosing to over-heat their homes, four in five households (80%) say they are planning on taking steps to keep their energy bills down this winter[5]. The most popular measures include wearing more layers to avoid putting the heating on (40%), putting a thicker duvet on the bed (35%) and always switching off appliances at the plug socket rather than leaving them on standby (32%)[5].

Just 4% are planning on insulating their homes, despite it being one of the most effective ways of making them cheaper to keep warm[5]. 28% would still rather increase the temperature before taking any other action[12], and 24% don’t think they should have to wear warmer clothes inside during the winter months[13].

Technology is now playing a role in helping households control their energy bills. A quarter (25%) are using smart home technology to control their central heating more efficiently[6] such as a smart thermostat which allows people to remotely adjust the temperature or change the times the heating comes on and off.

More than two thirds (67%) of those with a smart thermostat have found themselves changing the temperature more often than they would have done before[14] meaning they can control their energy usage around their lifestyle and not waste money heating the home when they’re not there.

Smart home technology also provides a way to sidestep the heating arguments that plague many homes, with 63% of those with smart thermostats admitting to sneakily changing the temperature without their partner or spouse knowing about it[15]. But most importantly, a third (33%) of users say smart technology has helped them to reduce the size of their bills[16].

Following a round of price rises from the big six energy suppliers, bills have risen by an average of £87 this year, with the impact likely to be felt most by those who can least afford it. Government figures show that around 2.5 million households live in fuel poverty[11], meaning they will generally have higher than average energy costs and lower than average incomes. Whereas some households are able to leave the heating on permanently, others may well face difficult choices such as when they can afford to turn the heating on over the coming months.

For those who are looking for effective ways to heat their homes for less, switching supplier takes a matter of minutes and can save up to £491 a year[7]. Over 3 million households have already switched electricity supplier this year, and over 2.5 million have switched gas supplier[17].

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “As the days get shorter and the cold weather kicks in, lots of us will be putting the heating on more regularly. But think twice before you crank the thermostat up above 21 degrees. With the clocks having gone back and most people spending more time indoors, you’ll be using more energy around your home, so it’s best to make sure you’re using that energy efficiently and not paying more than you need to.

“Before the winter really takes hold, it’s essential to check whether you could be on a cheaper energy tariff, meaning you can keep warm without worrying about the cost. Switching supplier could save you hundreds of pounds in just a few minutes and really help ease the financial pressure over winter.”

uSwitch’s top tips for saving money on your energy bills this winter:

  • Switch it up; by simply switching to a better deal you could save up to £491[7]
  • Read your meter; uSwitch research found more than a fifth of households don’t submit regular energy meter readings to their supplier, risking inaccurate bills. Once they provided a reading, two thirds of Brits found that they were owed £161 on average
  • Bleed your radiators; this releases any gas caught inside them, making them run more efficiently
  • Switch off the tech; leaving televisions and games consoles on permanent standby costs £45-£80 a year and we waste nearly £29m per year in this country by leaving our phone chargers switched on even though we’re not charging our phones
  • Turn it down; around 90% of a washing machines energy expenditure is spent on heating the water, so the lower the temperature, the more money you save.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was carried out by Opinium between 3rd and 6th October 2017 among 2,000 UK adults responsible for energy bills.

  1. When asked ‘During the winter, on average what temperature do you like to set your thermostat to?’ 16% of respondents said 22 degrees or more. There are 27.1 million households in the UK (source: ONS). 16% of 27.1 million households is 4.6 million. 25% of respondents from the North East, 24% of respondents from London, 22% of respondents from Wales, 15% of respondents from Scotland, and 11% of respondents the South West answered 22 degrees or more. The average temperature of Tenerife in June is 21 degrees: http://www.holiday-weather.com/tenerife/averages/june/.
  2. 4.6m households x £80 equals £368m
  3. When asked ‘Do you ever turn the thermostat up higher than you need to help the house heat up more quickly?’, 48% of respondents said ‘Yes’.
  4. When asked ‘On an average winter day, how long do you typically have the heating on?’ 7% of respondents said, ‘All day’. 7% of 27.1 million households is 1.8 million.
  5. When asked ‘Are you planning to do any of the following to keep your energy bills down this winter?’ 80% of respondents said ‘Yes’. 40% said ‘Wearing more layers to avoid putting the heating on’, 35% said ‘Putting a thicker duvet on the bed’, 32% said ‘Always switching off appliances at the plug socket rather than leaving them on standby’, 12% said ‘Switch energy supplier’ and 4% said ‘Install insulation’.
  6. When asked ‘Do you use any of the following smart home technology to help you control energy use and /or the central heating at home?’ 25% of respondents said ‘Yes’.
  7. Between 1 April 2017 and 30 September 2017, at least 10% of people who switched energy supplier for both gas & electricity with uSwitch saved £491 or more.
  8. http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/thermostats-and-controls
  9. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2016/summer
  10. When asked ‘On an average winter day, how long do you typically have the heating on?’, the average response from all respondents was 6.6 hours.

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.

uSwitch customers have the option to create an account which will prompt them when their current broadband, credit card, energy, insurance and mobile deals are coming to an end. For energy customers, the account can also automatically monitor the market and notify them when they can move to a cheaper tariff - making future comparisons even simpler and faster. In 2016, uSwitch saved UK consumers over £320m on their energy bills alone.

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