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Let’s talk about energy price rises

Do you have a question for our experts about how much your energy bill may rise, or how to switch supplier?

23/11/21: Bulb goes into special administration

23/09/21: Supplier struggles

Energy suppliers are facing a struggle to stay afloat and consumers are feeling the effects thanks to rising wholesale gas prices. Six energy suppliers have ceased trading in the past month, and with the price cap on out-of-contract energy deals ending on 1 October, many consumers may see record high prices.

Read more about what you can do about the energy price rise

Many of you have been in touch with questions and concerns about how this affects you and what to do if you’re affected. We’re keen to hear from more of you: do you have a question that we haven’t answered yet?

Energy supplier guidance from Which?

If you have been, or worried you may be, affected by energy price rises or by your energy supplier’s failure, here are some essential guides from Which?: 

How worried are you about your energy supplier going bust?
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Let’s talk

If you have a question for our experts about energy price rises or supplier failure, please ask in the comments below.  We’ll pass each of these on and answer you as soon as we can. 

We’re also keen to hear about your experiences. Are you in supplier limbo? Has your energy bill unexpectedly gone up? Let’s talk about what you’re going through.  

If you have a question that you’d rather not ask in public, you can always get in touch via our contact form

Comments
Sarah Fowler says:
7 April 2022

I own a small two bedroom, centre terrace, double-glazed ground floor flat in southwest England that is used for short term lets. Electricity is the sole energy source and there are wall heaters in all rooms. I pay the bills, which are already very high – particularly when guests crank the heat up as high as 30 degrees C (even in summer!). I urgently need advice, please, on technology to reduce these heating costs. At the moment they can be two or three times higher than the monthly energy bills for my end terrace, three story, home.

Sarah Fowler says:
7 April 2022

I own a small two bedroom, centre terrace, double-glazed ground floor flat in southwest England that is used for short term lets. Electricity is the sole energy source and there are wall heaters in all rooms. I pay the bills, which are already very high – particularly when guests crank the heat up as high as 30 degrees C (even in summer!). I urgently need advice, please, on technology to reduce these heating costs. At the moment they can be two or three times higher than the monthly energy bills for my end terrace, three story, home.

Sarah — Which? Conversation does not normally provide advice on business activities.

The things you need to look into are probably replacing the wall heaters with more efficient or more economical types, changing the controls [switches, timers, thermostats] to prevent use during periods of warm weather, and insulation and heat conservation [including floorcoverings and curtains].

With short-term lets you or an agent are no doubt checking the property between lets. You can use such opportunities to adjust settings or disconnect circuits during the summer months.

You could raise the charges for occupation in the winter months and you could install a pay meter on the electricity supplies to the heaters.

Some of these measures will require expenditure and you would have to judge whether the investment was worth it in relation to the payback period.

Whatever you do, you need to make sure that the property can maintain a reasonable comfort level so that guests are not tempted to introduce temporary heat sources that might be unsafe or dangerous.

Hi Sarah, because the property is used for short term lets, I guess this makes things a little tricky. On one hand you want to ensure your guests are comfortable, but on the other you want to avoid abuse of the heating leading to excessive bills.

My immediate thought if not already in operation would be to install a timer which is only accessible (perhaps in a locked cabinet) to yourself or your agent. The timer could be set to allow the heaters to operate during the day and evening, while turning off at night. Some electric heaters have no external controls, with the thermostat being set internally first – this would prevent any further adjustment by guests. Therefore you could set the thermostat internally to a comfortable level, without the worry of guests increasing the temperature excessively.

Installing a timer and/or isolation switch in a locked cabinet would also allow you to disable the heaters during warm periods.

As John Ward suggested, depending on the age of the heaters, it’s quite possible that the latest electric heaters will be more efficient, but this would of course involve some investment to replace.

I would imagine it’s quite difficult achieving a balance whereby your guests remain comfortable, while ensuring the heating is used sensibly.

With rising energy charges I would welcome a move to separate the charges for accommodation and power. If some tenants wish to heat their home to 30°C then let them pay the cost, rather than sharing the cost with other tenants.

Installing more modern heaters with similar types will achieve nothing because unlike gas boilers and fridges, newer ones are not more efficient, although better controls such as thermostats and timers could well be worthwhile for reducing costs.

Have you considered electric storage radiators, Sarah? In the past, these were used in combination with Economy 7/10 to make use of cheaper overnight electricity. The modern equivalent is to switch to a supplier that offers a smart tariff that offers cheaper overnight electricity and may offer a reduced price during the day except at peak times. A smart electricity meter is needed. Various companies including Octopus offer smart tariffs. To use a smart tariff it is essential to have a smart meter, but these can be installed free of charge by energy suppliers.

Em says:
8 April 2022

Heating a short term letting business is a completely different proposition from heating a domestic home and I don’t see how Economy 7 or a smart tariff would necessarily make things better.

I’m guessing from the location that this is a holiday let. Guests are likely to be in and out at any time of the day – or night – depending on the weather and what they are doing for eating and entertainment. They are not going to be sensitive to the variable rates of an agile tariff, especially if you are paying!

Economy 7 requires about 40% of consumption to be off peak to break even over a standard variable tariff. The house would need to be is occupied and heated throughout the winter season and hot water drawn from a storage tank, rather than instant showers. That seems a little unlikey; with four adults sharing, I could imagine complaints about cold water.

I think maybe you are looking at the problem from the wrong end. Rather than what can be done to reduce the cost of my guest’s electricity demands, which would need a significant capital investment, maybe the question should be how do I ensure I make a profit from each letting?

The obvious answer is to increase your letting charges. Another approach is to charge for energy on top of the accommodation. If either of these is not possible, then you need to question whether the business model is still viable with such high energy costs. Perhaps time to cash in on the rising property market, rather than invest more money in improvements which will reduce your returns and profitability.

The only technology fix I can suggest is a smart thermostat that you can control remotely and hope the guests don’t notice.

Many thanks to everyone for your helpful comments on my heating dilemma – I learnt a lot.
I sometimes resort to pulling out the fuses during summer heatwaves, when room heating is unnecessary, but think that the best option must be to change over to Economy 7. New high heat retention night storage heaters are also recommended in the EPC, and the hot water tank can be heated at night.
I’ve not been able to source a more sophisticated electric heater that can be programmed by me but not instantly over-ridden by guests, and is affordable.
I’ve put the daily rent up a bit and will probably increase it again this winter.
In the long term, once I’ve finished making incremental improvements to the flat, I look forward to changing over to an AST, leaving heating choices to the tenant!
Thanks again, Sarah.

I had both my electricity and gas with British Gas, but I switched to Octopus energy a long time ago. I have been happy with the charges but as for everyone the price has increased by about 30 – 35 %. At the moment I am investing a lot in repairs and upgrading insulation. I live in a large Victorian house and insulation was not a thing they thought of. Solid walls. Regarding the repairs I am having the roof replaced with Redland’s Cambrian slate system. I have asked for Celotex insulation not only between the rafters, but also between the ceiling roof joists. The insulation alone is costing approaching £8000. now and not grants available. As a disabled pensioner living on a minimum state pension and PIP benefit the cost is starting to work me.
Had it not been for my wife of now 49 years now and a good job with John Lewis, and her great John Lewis Pension where at she is still working part time at 72 and her state pension, didn’t get if until she was 67. we would not have been able to afford it. I replaced a lot of the windows with double glazing but the large living room on the North side of the house does not. A “LOT OF MONEY” !!!!!!
So £50K blown all in one go and not all of it has been paid for yet.

Jeremy, I would seek advice before insulating between both joists and rafters. There are possible condensation problems – the roof needs ventilating – but you should be able to achieve a suitable level of insulation by just doing the joists. Should save a fair bit of money. If using the loft for accommodation then it would only be the rafters that need insulation, not the floor, as far as I know.

I agree with Malcolm. I would suggest that your roofing contractor considers using a type of sarking that goes between the slates and the rafters and incorporates a degree of insulation. It comes in sheet or roll form and should be much cheaper to install than other material fitted between the rafters.

If you are not using the roof space for storage, or don’t need much access to it, then the recommended depth of insulation material [up to 270 mm, which will extend substantially above the joists] should be adequate.