/ Home & Energy

Jumpers instead of heating – how you’re cutting back this winter

Have you been forced to slash your Christmas spending? We found that most Brits are cutting back to pay for rising energy bills. Energy should be more affordable and we’re delivering this message to MP Chris Huhne.

Christmas. A time of jolly merrymaking, giving, sharing and tradition. However, this year’s Christmas may be very different for households up and down the country.

Our research found that six in ten people are worried about the cost of energy this festive season, with the vast majority (83%) making cutbacks to keep energy costs down. We also found that over half are putting on extra clothes indoors, and more than four in ten are turning the heating down.

Energy prices have risen by almost 20% in the last six months and, with the average annual energy bill standing at £1,345, it isn’t surprising that this Christmas will be one of hardship and cutbacks for many Brits up and down the country.

Your Christmas cutback stories

Last week we hit the streets and the web to ask people what they were cutting back on to help pay for their energy bills. We received a staggering response and the majority agreed that their Christmas was going to be one of cutting back as bills rise.

We received a broad range of comments, including people who share bathwater, families who have no heating on at all and others who have sold their cars or even downsized their property to help pay for energy.

Carol shared the wide range of ways that she’s had to resort to use less energy:

‘Stopped Christmas lights outside the house. Only have the TV on for a couple of hours and no radio or music. Limit the use of the kettle by making a flask of coffee or tea. Have the heating set to 16˚C. Wrap up in several layers of clothing and if I’m very cold, put on my coat.’

And then there was Lorraine who is really feeling the pinch this Christmas:

‘We won’t be having turkey for Christmas lunch as it is too costly, but have bought a cheaper joint of meat that was on offer earlier in the year to freeze. Have looked for bargains, vouchers and reduced the amount spent on gifts and cards overall. Generally making cuts in all areas this year.’

And Which? Conversation commenter Liz told us about her efforts to cut energy bills:

‘I put the heating on for the first time on December 4th. Until then I didn’t even have hot water on tap, I just heated a small amount in my kettle when I needed it, as I found that my gas boiler uses quite a lot of energy when it’s just left on.’

In light of this, we want the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to make affordable energy his number one priority for the New Year. Today we’ll be delivering your comments (as well as a festive jumper) to remind him that this Christmas will be one of cutbacks, cold houses and fewer presents. Are you with us?

Comments
Member

I live in the North East of Scotland and so far we have been very lucky with the weather. We do not get the option of turning down our heating, if we did we freeze. So yes we put on extra clothing whether it be an extra fleece or a thermal vest, it really is a matter of survival ( a bit dramatic but true). I feel sorry for those who moved here from milder climates as it can get very very cold here. As I said so far this year we have had a very mild year, which is saving us all money and long may it continue.

So in essence I would like to see fuel tarrifs stabilise all year round that way we could all, young and old, afford to keep ourselves warm.

Member
David Sanders says:
27 December 2011

I thought you may be interested in this Canadian carbon reduction and fuel saving system, which is about to be launched in the UK.

It’s a low cost, self installed passive device which reduces natural gas, propane and heating oil consumption by around 15% (more if the boilers are old or badly maintained), and reduces CO emissions by up to 80%.

We have over 7,000 of these units installed and in some cases, we can guarantee a one year payback (ROI).

We’re in contact with one L.A. who have a £1M heating bill and £250,000 carbon credit contribution to make.

We can save them £125,000 per year – every year, whilst significantly reducing their carbon footprint

Member
erik99 says:
27 December 2011

This sounds to me somewhat like a commercial advertisement, or am I just being unduly cynical?

Member

I don’t object to commercial advertisements, unless they are thought up by some overpaid ethic-deficient ad-executive who plays on my psychological weaknesses, rather than describing the merits of his particular product. I am sick to the back teeth of cars that turn into robots or mechanised centipedes, or drive through the set of Lord of the Rings with some fire-breathing monster chasing them. Its like a Golf but not a Golf, but what on earth is it like? A Golf is nothing to me, and inarticulate people who relate everything to a Golf, sure ain’t gonna sell me anything. This particular ad seems to discuss the real merits of the product, and I find that refreshing.
But I would welcome a url link to an independent assessment, please.

Member
Malcolm Fry says:
27 December 2011

I would be concerned, admittedly some greater detail would be helpful, that this may be one of these magnetic/electrostatic “molecule organisers”, that seem to suddenly appear on the market, every ten years, or so, and disappear just as quickly. Inovative products are always welcome, provided their claims are verified, by someone one has actually heard of.

Member
Malcolm Fry says:
28 December 2011

One aspect of heating management has not been discussed. The humble room thermostat. If one has recently had a new system installed, there is a good chance it has some decent control fitted. However, most older systems have control which is, to say the least, crude. Most heating systems, which cost thousands of pounds to instal, and not much less to run, have, as their primary control, a room thermostat, that cost a tenner, and which is often badly located, and not even appropriately wired. In the days when energy was cheap, there was a tendancy for heating engineers to fit the cheapest stat, they could find, site it where it was convenient to wire, and then wire it in the cheapest possible way, that worked. How many people are forever “fiddling” with their stat, trying to get it right, or having it set so it’s sometimes like a sauna, to avoid it being freezing at other times.
The best time to fit a modern stat, is when changing the boiler, as most boiler manufacturers now offer controls, as an accessory, particularly suited to their boilers. It is, however, possible to fit a modern, electronic stat to most systems, at reasonable cost. Many are “wi-fi”, so one can fit the sensor, if necessary, at a better location, without the need for additional wiring. Electronic stats tend to give much better control, and/or reduce running costs, especially when replacing an old, badly installed, electro-mechanical one.

Member

It used to be common to have the thermostat in the hall and many CH systems have been installed without a room thermostat. Sensibly installed thermostats can improve comfort and save money.

I defend those who fiddle with the thermostat. Perhaps they are the ones who realise that our need for heating does vary during the day.

Member

I’m with Wavechange, but I do agree that British Gas in particular and many other heating installers too have a diabolical record of fitting the cheapest stats in the easiest place even if, as is often the case, that is the worst place in terms of operation. Many installers, and BG is certainly one, also fail to wire them safely, let alone to work correctly.

A properly wired electro-mechanical room stat, located in a sensible position, is every bit as effective as modern solid-state ones and, albeit infinitesimally small, the amount of electricity consumed by a modern solid state stat (mains type only) is greater than the zero consumption of an electromechanical one.

All that said, you cannot expect to “set and forget” a stat and still get the best economy and operation. If you could there would be no need for a user control on the stat.

I’m not sure about the “Valliant” (should that be Vaillant??) heating engineer’s advice to dispose of stats: since Vaillant (and as far as I know, pretty much all other) Boilers all come with a strong recommendation that a room ‘stat is fitted it seems a little odd.

In terms of heating controls and fuel economy fitting a modern programmer (timer) that allows very short switching periods and more than just one or two on/off cycles per day saves a huge amount of fuel. I would suggest that anyone thinking of spending money on updating controls looks first to the programmer and only worries about the stat if they either don’t have one at all (in which case fit one) or if they think it is incorrectly wired and / or not working properly (in which case get it looked at by a reputable independent heating engineer but NOT one of the boiler manufacturers’ or energy companies’ engineers who are likely to try to sell you a new system or many alterations that you don’t need and won’t save you money).