Energy bills in British homes are set to rise by over a third with the COVID-19 lockdown and millions will struggle to pay.
That’s the view from a national survey of 2,000 consumers that found 72% of households have seen an increase in their energy usage since the lockdown began.
The survey by Populus for comparethemarket.com revealed that households could face a 37% rise in their energy bills as people spend much more time at home, working or in isolation. Almost half of people (48%) said that more members of the household were working from home.
Households face on average a rise of £32.31 per month – or £387 over the year. Higher energy bills were a concern for almost half (44%), with worries that working from home could lead to unaffordable bills.
Over a third of homes (36%) report turning down their central heating during the day, and over a quarter (27%) are limiting how much lighting they use.
For those struggling with the increased bills, a simple and effective solution is to install LED lighting. This can save up to 85% on energy use, so the initial costs are repaid swiftly, and you go on saving money year after year with no need to replace the bulbs. These can last for a decade or more.
The survey found that during the nationwide shutdown, use of all home appliances has soared, including washing machines/tumble dryers. One easy way to cut laundry drying costs is with the ecoegg dryer egg, which can reduce drying time by up to 28%.
If working from home continues, the average annual cost of a combined gas and electricity bill could rise from around £1,034 to £1,421.
Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com said:
“Many are understandably worried about how they will manage this increased cost, particularly if they are a high energy consumption household.”
Homes struggling with higher bills are being encouraged to seek help. Around 2.4 million households in England are suffering from fuel poverty according to the Department for Business and Energy. Citizens Advice Scotland reports that a quarter of all households north of the border were already in fuel poverty before the virus crisis.
Energy regulator Ofgem says that up to 15 million UK households are on the least-competitive standard variable tariff, so they are spending on average £362 per year more than the cheapest fixed tariffs available. The price comparison site recommends consumers contact their energy provider or consider switching supplier to find a better deal.