Households cut back on power use

And as price hikes strike, many more may be willing to compromise on their quality of life, health or well-being, just to keep a lid on their energy bills.

As Britain braces itself for winter, 84% of people are worried about the cost of their energy bills. Price hikes have added to consumers’ concern – almost eight in ten (79%) are more worried about their winter fuel bills this year as a result. Such is the impact that the cost of energy continues to be the number one household concern (90%), ahead of the rising cost of food (80%), petrol prices (75%) and mortgage and rent payments (40%).

Consumers are feeling the pinch – 92% have seen a reduction in disposable income due to the rising cost of energy. Almost two in ten (18%) say they no longer have any disposable income left, while over a third (35%) blame the rising cost of energy for a dramatic reduction in their disposable income.

At the same time, households are being forced into debt to meet the costs of essential household bills. Four in ten (41%) are using debt, such as credit cards, overdrafts and loans, in order to meet their day-to-day living costs – over two in ten (22%) are worried about this debt. In the struggle to pay bills, one in ten households (10%) have gone into debt by more than £2500.

Amid these growing concerns, consumers are taking drastic action. Last winter three quarters of households (75%) – potentially 19.5 million – went without heating at some point to keep their energy costs down. Worryingly, 15% said that it had affected their quality of life or health. Now, with energy bills rocketing again, many more may be forced to compromise on keeping warm and the national impact on health and well-being could be immense.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: "This winter the high cost of energy will see households forced to play Russian roulette with their health and well-being by going without adequate heating. As suppliers move to push prices up, consumers will be reacting by turning their heating down – the unpalatable choice between heating and eating will become a reality of life for many more this winter.

"The Government has to face up to the fact that we are on the brink of an affordability crisis. When the average household energy bill hits £1500 a year, 36% of homes – almost four in ten – will be forced to turn their heating off completely. We are only a small step away from this and every price hike takes us that little bit closer to the edge.

"Rather than resorting to drastic and potentially dangerous measures, I would urge consumers to make their money go further by making their homes energy efficient and making sure that they are paying the lowest price for the energy they do use. There are many low-cost or free insulation offers available that households can take advantage of, plus there is currently £300 a year difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs on the market. These are easy savings to make and could help households to keep their fuel bills manageable this winter."

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