Press release:

£28-a-week air con bill warning as workers and children swelter at home in heatwave

  • More than two million households are considering buying portable air con units as workers and children endure heatwave at home[1]
  • Warnings that some domestic units burn 2.7kW power adding £28 a week to energy bills[2]
  • Interest in portable air conditioning units up 133% on the previous year during the hottest week of 2020 so far — and up 360% since the lockdown started[3]
  • Homes already with portable air con units run them for over four hours on a hot day and five hours at night, on average[4]
  • Uswitch.com offers hacks on how to stay cool during hot spells without increasing your bill.

More than two million households are considering buying portable air conditioning units this summer as workers and children spend more time at home[1], according to Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service. Uswitch warns that the devices can increase home energy bills by up to £28 a week[2].

Interest in portable air con units has increased as temperatures soar and employees and children stay at home because of COVID-19, with Google searches for portable air con units rocketing 133% compared to the previous year in the last week of May when temperatures hit 28.2oC (82.76oF). Interest has shot up 360% since the start of lockdown. The warning comes with the mercury expected to soar above 30oC (86oF) this week as the UK basks in another heatwave[3].

Portable air conditioning units use 2.7kW of power on average[5], equivalent to constantly running a washing machine or tumble dryer. Those already owning one say they use them for 4 hours 18 minutes on average during the day and 4 hours 48 minutes at night when temperatures are high[4], meaning that weekly energy bills could rise by £28 during a hot spell[2].

A further 2.2 million consumers are considering buying an air cooling system — which uses water rather than a coolant to reduce temperatures — to help them stay cool this summer, and another 2.2 million are planning to purchase an electric fan[1].

The cost of running different devices varies dramatically, with air con systems using 2.7kW of power on average, compared to a standard desktop fan consuming just 120W — almost 20 times less energy.

With many homes planning a summer at home instead of abroad, there are also warnings about the potential impact of other seasonal feel-good gadgets on energy bills. Searches for hot tubs, which can use 3kW for the heating element alone, have shot up by 775% in the last three months and electric patio heaters searches have soared by a staggering 790%.

Table – Summer energy guzzlers

Uswitch.com is offering tips and tricks for staying cool and saving energy — such as placing a bowl of ice cubes in front of an electric fan to circulate colder air — in its guide to the cost of keeping cool.

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com, comments: “In normal times, millions of workers would be spending this heatwave in a perfectly chilled air-conditioned office. Now an open window and a desk fan is the best that many of us can hope for.

“With temperatures creeping above 30oC and people set to spend the hottest times of the day at home, it’s no surprise that so many of us are investigating what we can splash out on to make things more bearable.

“Portable air conditioning units are an effective way to keep a room cool, but they consume a lot of power and could well bring about a nasty surprise when the next energy bill arrives.

“There are plenty of cheaper ways to control your temperature at home, such as placing a bowl of ice cubes in front of an electric fan. The fan will create a refreshing breeze as it blows the ice-cooled air around the room.

“Also, keep your curtains shut during the day. It may be tempting to let a breeze through the house, but the sunshine will heat up every room it can reach, turning your home into a greenhouse in no time at all.”

Find out how you could save nearly £1,000 a year with Uswitch here.

 

— ends —

Notes to editors

Notes to editors:

Opinium surveyed a sample of 2,001 UK adults from the 9th to 11th June 2020. Results were weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria.

  1. Respondents were asked ‘Which of the following do you have or would consider buying?’ 9% said they would consider buying a portable air conditioning unit in 2020. 9% of 27.6 million UK households = 2.48 million considering buying a portable air con unit. 8% said they would consider buying an air cooler in 2020. 8% of 27.6 million households = 2.2 million. 8% said they would consider buying an electric desktop fan in 2020. 8% of 27.6 million households = 2.2 million.
  2. Average air con owner uses the device for 4.3 hours a day and 4.8 hours a night = 9.1 hours. Average air con unit uses 2.7kW. 9.1 hours x 2.7kw = 24.57kWh used a day. Energy Saving Trust estimates an average electricity price of 16.36p per kWh. 24.57kWh x 16.36 = £4.02 a day. £4.02 x 7 = £28.13 for a week.
  3. Data collected by Uswitch.com using Google Trends based on searches by consumers made in the United Kingdom. See table for results. Percentage increase/decrease calculated by working out the percentage increase/decrease between 1-7 March (before lockdown) and 17-23 May.
  4. Respondents with air con systems were asked ‘How many hours would you have your cooling system switched on during a hot day?’ Average was 4.3 hours. Respondents with air con systems were asked ‘How many hours would you have your cooling system switched on while asleep during a hot night? Average was 4.8 hours.’
  5. Uswitch survey of popular portable air conditioning units available from UK retailers.

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