It’s been pretty chilly since December, but our heating has been going on a lot less often this winter.
It’s also been considerably darker in the Lambert household, as my wife and I wander around turning off lights in rooms that us and the kids aren’t in.
We are not alone. This is a story playing out across swathes of middle-class British family households.
The catalyst has been sky-high gas and electricity prices that have tipped even the comfortably-off into energy-saving mode.
Dialling down: Like many other households, Simon Lambert has turned the heating down and pared back its timings, but how much energy is that saving?
Despite the energy price guarantee, many are paying roughly double what they were a year earlier – and the looming hike from a level of £2,500 for the average household to £3,000 from April has focussed minds further.
That, of course, is the cost for the average household. Those with bigger or less efficient homes – or energy-hungry family members – will be paying much more.
There’s nothing like the prospect of a £3,600 a year energy bill to get you to pull your socks up (and stick an extra jumper on while you’re at it).
Thermostats have been turned down, heating and hot water timings pared back, and light switches and lamps flipped off in households that never really worried much about the cost of their energy bills before.
We’re far from the most dedicated of energy savers but those bigger bills mean we’ve changed what we do
I suspect that the Lambert family is probably a fair representation of this behaviour.
We are a long way off being the most dedicated of energy-savers but those bigger bills are hurting the monthly budget and so we have changed what we do.
The thermostat has been dialled down to 18 degrees (from a heady 21C); there are many occasions when in previous years the heating would have been flipped on and now it isn’t; and while we aren’t sitting in darkness, we are turning off a lot more lights and thinking about what we run (even the precious tumble dryer is getting less of a spin).
So, what good has that done us?
I dug out my energy bills to compare the past month with the same period a year earlier.
The good news is that we have used less energy (A relief, as I’ll admit that I was slightly concerned I’d discover all the shivering had been for nothing and we’d used more).
Between 13 January 2022 and 12 February 2022, we used 346kWh of electricity and 3,378kWh of gas.
Between 13 January and 12 February 2023, we used 308kWh of electricity and 3,075kWh of gas.
This means our electricity usage is down 11 per cent and our gas usage is down 9 per cent.
Hardly shoot the lights out stuff, but we’ve not been that militant and there’s definitely been a bit of ‘I’m chilly’ fatigue and accompanying slippage on turning the heating on over the past month. I’m the main culprit here.
This is also far from the most scientific of comparisons: it’s just one month and I reckon mid-January to mid-February this year was colder than last.
But with the results in, what would I give us for effort and attainment? Probably a 7 out of 10, with a note to suggest keeping up the good work but also to try to do better.
The problem is that however well we do, our bills will still be far higher than they were.
A year ago, our projected bill for 12 months was £1,885 – or £157 per month. Today, that 12-month projection stands at £3,647 – or £303 per month.
To some readers that will sound like a lot, but to others it might sound enviably low.
We certainly aren’t the ‘average household’, as our usage is considerably above the typical cost, but we might be typical of a certain kind of household: we live in a detached but not particularly big 1960s-built house, which has not very good insulation and aged double-glazing, and have two children and two adults needing heating and power.
Long-term, the answer for people like us is to make their homes much more energy efficient. But this is expensive, and it can take many years to recoup the cost – with a renovation of our house hopefully one day on the cards, it seems to make little sense to do much work before then.
The short-term hope is for energy prices to fall and bills to come down. The good news is that there are some promising signs and expert analysts at Cornwall Insight suggest we may even see the return of cheaper fixed rate energy deals and the potential for switching suppliers soon.
That would be a welcome spring arrival.
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