Gas and electricity Updated:
The cold snap is definitely upon us, but it seems that a worrying number of Brits could be suffering unnecessarily, with many being too worried about their energy bills to turn up the heating.
The research, from energyhelpline, has revealed that 56% of respondents don't turn up the heating when they're cold, with 43% needing to be very cold - and 13% needing to be freezing - before they take action. The figure has almost doubled in the space of two years, as in 2014, just 32% said that they didn't turn up the heating.
Essentially, this means that the majority of respondents are braving the cold this winter, whereas previously, the majority would head for the thermostat when things got icy. The issue is highlighted further when taking health advice into account: according to Government recommendations, a living room should be heated to 21°C when in use, but only a quarter of people have it at this level.
This means that the vast majority heat their room to a lower temperature, but even more worrying is the finding that 3% said they don't turn the heating on at all because they can't afford the bills, which means that many households could be putting their health at risk.
While the age-old advice of putting on extra layers when the chill hits is certainly beneficial, having a home that's too cold could do more harm than good: "Britons appear to be increasingly suffering unhealthily cold conditions in their homes," said Mark Todd, of energyhelpline.com. "It may be no coincidence that last year saw so many winter deaths, as living in cold conditions can lead to illness."
The fear of the heating bill is very real for many, but it shouldn't put your health in jeopardy. Furthermore, as Mark points out, the mild conditions the country experienced pre-Christmas could actually mean that your bills will be lower than you think. "The mild October to December 2015 period led to £771 million off UK energy bills," said Mark, "[which] means households shouldn't resist the boost button during this polar spell."
The fact that heating was largely unnecessary for the final months of 2015 means that there's no reason not to turn the dial up now, as chances are, your bills will already be lower. And, if you're really concerned, why not see what other deals are out there?
Taking a closer look at the energy market and switching supplier can be a great way to lower your bills - even if you turn up the heating - and it could pay to think outside the box. Not only do the Big Six continue to languish at the bottom of customer service tables, but their prices are often high in comparison, too, whereas smaller suppliers can often prove far more cost-effective.
An estimated one million households left the Big Six in 2015, energyhelpline figures show, with 52% of their switchers opting for smaller suppliers - and this figure has accelerated to 76% in the first three weeks of the year. These smaller suppliers often score far better in terms of customer service, and they can generally beat the Big Six in terms of price, too, and with 30 smaller suppliers to choose from, there's never been a better time to see what else is out there.
"When customers make a choice it's often a smaller supplier they opt for, offering both better service and a better price," concluded Mark. "Savings from switching are bigger than ever and poor customer service is yet another reason why many consumers should consider a small supplier over a large one for their energy.
"Our message is simple - switch to your cheapest energy deal and then turn up the heating. No one should be living in cold, unhealthy conditions in the 21st century."
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