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Stay-at-home Britons could spend an extra £52 million a week on energy bills

  • The UK could spend an extra £52 million a week on household energy bills as an estimated 16.8 million people stay at home due to coronavirus

  • Households where people have to stay home may each spend an extra £16 a month on energy — equivalent to £195 a year for those on a poor-value deal

  • Energy providers are offering help to customers unable to pay their bills, and struggling consumers should contact their supplier as soon as possible

  • Uswitch.com offers bill-payers tips to reduce their energy consumption while working from home

The surge in the numbers of people staying home due to Coronavirus could lift Britain’s household energy bills by £52 million a week, according to new research from Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service.

About 16.8 million people are estimated to be not going in to their normal workplace as a result of measures to delay the spread of COVID-19, and using more gas and electricity at times when their home would usually be empty and people would be at work or at school.

Workers who would likely be out between the hours of 8am and 6pm, for example, will use more energy by boiling the kettle, using the heating, having lights on, using their computer and television, and charging devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Uswitch estimates that households where people are working from home will use an additional 25% more electricity and 17% more gas per day — which adds up to a potential yearly increase of up to £195 per household or £16 per month for customers on expensive Standard Variable Tariffs.

The energy industry is working with the government to help households affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Measures announced for struggling energy customers include reassessing, reducing or pausing debt repayments and bill payments, and not disconnecting any household.

Suppliers will make some decisions on a case-by-case basis, so anyone who is struggling with their bill or repayment plan should contact their provider to explain their situation and agree what form of help their energy company can give.

Uswitch is suggesting ways for consumers to reduce their energy use while working from home.  For more information see our useful guide here.

Cordelia Samson, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said:

“This is a hugely unsettling time for everyone, with many people staying at home who don’t normally, and some having to juggle looking after children at the same time.

“People will be thinking about vulnerable friends and relatives, so the last thing on their minds will be their energy bill.

“It’s great to see what energy firms are doing to keep the most vulnerable people supplied with gas and electricity, and we would urge all suppliers to continue to work together to protect those in need.

“Working from home and entertaining children during the day means having the heating on when it wouldn’t usually be, and using extra gas and electricity for cooking, making cups of tea, televisions and computers.

“The amount of extra energy households use will vary from home to home, but assuming a household with medium annual usage is at home for an extra 50 hours per week, we’ve estimated that they will probably use around 25% more electricity and 17% more gas right now.

“Across a whole year, this could increase bills for people on poor value Standard Variable Tariffs by almost £200 – around £16 a month. But don’t forget that warmer lighter days are on their way, so while it looks like we could be stuck at home for quite a while, we probably won’t need to use as much gas and electricity as we did over the winter.

“There are plenty of ways you can reduce the amount of energy use around your home, however, and if you’re concerned about the amount you’re paying, you should compare energy deals to see if there is a cheaper plan you can move to.”

Top ten energy-saving tips from Uswitch.com
Saving energy in the kitchenUse a microwave. Heat up food in the microwave as often as possible – it’s generally the most efficient way to heat up and cook food because its relatively small size means that a stronger level of heat can be focused on whatever’s being cooked.
Be water-conscious. When you’re boiling food in a pan, make sure you only use the amount of water needed to cover the amount of food you’re cooking, because boiling water you don’t need can waste a lot of gas or electricity.
Leave enough defrosting time. Defrost frozen food in the fridge overnight or while you’re at work. Defrosting food in advance typically halves the cooking time and also means that you don’t need to use the energy of a microwave to defrost more quickly.
Use the right size pan. Always use a pan which is the right size for the amount of food you are cooking – this means you won’t waste energy while heating a bigger surface area than you need.
Energy-saving laundry tipsShrink your bills, not your clothes. 90% of a washing machine’s energy expenditure is spent heating the water, so if you wash your clothes at 30-40°C you’re saving a significant amount of money.
Hang up your laundry. Air-dry your laundry rather than tumble-drying it, particularly if the weather is warm or windy.
Save electricity around the homeDon’t leave anything plugged in that isn’t being used. A lot of wasted electricity occurs through leaving appliances plugged in that aren’t being used. Even charger cables that don’t have anything plugged into them, but are still connected to the socket, can waste electricity, so it’s often better to err on the side of caution by unplugging anything that isn’t being actively used and switching the power off at the plug.
Save energy around the houseStay warm, cut costs. Turning your thermostat down by just 1°C can save you as much as £75 per year.
Layer up. Wearing jumpers, socks and slippers around the house and putting an extra blanket on the bed means you won’t be tempted to turn the heating up.
Turn the lights off. When you leave a room, don’t leave the lights on unless you’re coming back.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tim Dunford

Phone: 020 3872 5612

Mobile: 07785 552666

Email: tim.dunford@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uSwitchPR

Notes to editors

  1. Uswitch estimates that 16.77 million people will be staying at home during the day when they would normally be at work, and that household energy bills could increase by up to £195/year for households with medium annual consumption on a Standard Variable Tariff (see calculations below).

This is 16.77 million / 32.99 million in employment = 50.8%. 50.8% of 27.6 million households in the UK = 14.03 million households with one or more people at home who would normally be at work. £195 a year / 365 x 7 = £3.74 a week. £3.74 x 14.03 million = £52.47 million extra spent on energy a week.

  1. Estimate based on industries likely to have shut down operations or have staff working from home.

Table: Estimate of employees working from home by sector

Workers in industry (1,000s)Estimated numbers working at office/site (1,000s)Estimated numbers working from home (1,000s)Assumptions about where staff are
Agriculture, forestry & fishing338338-All at work
Mining, energy and water supply547547-All at work
Manufacturing3,0111,5061,506Half at work
Construction2,3101,1551,155Half at work
Wholesale, retail & repair of motor vehicles4,0892,044.52,044.5Half at work
Transport & storage1,574787787Half at work
Accommodation & food services1,7455241,22230% at work
Information & communication1,498-1,498All at home
Financial & insurance activities1,27642585133% at work
Real estate activities386-386All at home
Professional, scientific & technical activities2,540-2,540All at home
Administrative & support services1,545-1,545All at home
Public admin & defence; social security2,1302,130-All at work
Education3,4281,1432,285.366% at home
Human health & social work activities4,5154,515-All at work
Other services1,902951951Half at home
Total32,99016,060.216,773.8

Source: Employees per sector from Office for National Statistics employment by industry. Labour force survey data, correct as at 18/2/20. Assumptions on proportions of workers who are at work or at home are by Uswitch.

  1. See table for calculation of cost of extra energy use:

Table: Estimated cost of extra energy use by meter type

Credit meterPrepayment meter
SVT - Medium use Elec - 3,100 kWh/year Gas - 12,000 kWh/year£1,179/year£1,217/year
SVT - Increased use Elec - 3,900 kWh/year Gas - 14,000 kWh/year£1,374/year£1,409/year
Bill increase+£195/year +£16.25/month+£192/year +£16/month
Cheapest - Medium use Elec - 3,100 kWh/year Gas - 12,000 kWh/year£784/year (Outfox the Market, Fix'D 20 7.0)£1,026 (Bulb, Vari-Fair)
Cheapest - Increased use Elec - 3,900 kWh/year Gas - 14,000 kWh/year£931/year (Orbit Energy, Vari-Save Extra)£1,204 (Bulb, Vari-Fair)
Bill increase+£147/year +£12.25/month+£178/year +£14.83/month

Source: Uswitch.com data, correct as at 20/3/20. Prices assume a household with medium annual consumption on a dual-fuel tariff. Credit meter prices assume payment by monthly direct debit. Increases assume 25% increase in electricity use and 17% increase in gas use. Increased consumption volumes source: WSP modelling “Office v home working” - see Scenario B in downloadable report.

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