Image of some berries on a branch
Is winter coming?

Is winter coming? The cost of heating your home this winter

You’ve probably already noticed a chill in the air. It’s time to start thinking of dusting off the thermostat and dreading the heating bill that follows.

We spoke to Brits to find out how they feel about the oncoming winter, and crunched the numbers to estimate how much it’ll cost to heat a home this winter.

The results are looking as bleak as the forecast. According to our survey, 18% of people in the UK cannot afford the cost of their winter energy bills.

To help understand how expensive this winter might be, we’ve analysed the winter weather trends over the last decade. And if the worst predictions turn out to be true, we have some tips for how you can cut the cost of your energy bill during the chilly months.

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How much do Brits pay for their winter heating bill?

The cost of your fuel bill will vary if you use gas or electric heating, how often you have the heating on, and the size and age of your home.

We’ve crunched a few numbers, to work out what the average person might pay towards their heating bill each year:

  • Average annual domestic standard electricity bill (based on 3,800kWh/year)
    Electricity icon £586
  • Average annual domestic gas bill (based on 15,000kWh/year)
    £650 Gas icon
  • £1,236 spent on gas and electricity
  • 53%
    It’s estimated we spend 53% of our gas/electric bill on heating (source)
  • £655
    Which means we’re spending an average of £655 to heat our homes each year

So, what does this mean?

according to Ofgem, wholesale energy accounts for nearly half of our household energy bills, and trends indicate those prices are increasing. In winter 2016, wholesale prices for delivery were 20% higher than they were in September, and suppliers increased energy tariff prices as a result.

This suggests that wholesale energy prices will rise when the cold weather hits, and unless you plan on using less energy this winter, you could expect a heftier heating bill to land on your doormat in the spring.

What does this mean for pensioners?

More than half of the over-65s we spoke to said they were worried about the cost of heating their homes this winter – something the Winter Fuel Allowance is supposed to help remedy.

What is the winter fuel allowance?

What is the Winter Fuel Allowance

The Winter Fuel Allowance is designed to help pensioners pay for their heating bills. Those born on or before August 5, 1953 could be eligible to receive £100-£300 towards the cost of winter energy usage:

Typically, those under the age of 80

Get £200 if they live alone, or £100 if they live with another eligible person.

Typically, those over the age of 80

Get £300 if they live alone, or £150 if they live with someone 80+ who is also eligible.

Our survey revealed that almost 10% of pensioners haven’t claimed their Winter Heating Allowance, which is usually paid in November or December. Some seniors will get the benefit automatically, but others need to register by March 2018 to claim for winter 17/18.

Under 80: £100 to £200
Over 80: £150 to £300

10% of pensioners haven’t claimed fuel allowance

Despite the Winter Fuel Allowance, our survey revealed that 13% of those aged 65+ say they can’t afford to cover the cost of heating their homes during the winter months.

The impact will vary depending on the individual, but based on the estimate that heating bills will cost the average household around £655, even those who receive the maximum benefit could have to account for the remaining £355. Pensioners who don’t get the full payment could find themselves feeling the pinch even more.

A bleak forecast for winter 2017/18

Things could be even stormier next winter. According to the March 2017 Welfare Budget, the government will spend £2.1bn in 2016/17 on the Winter Fuel Allowance. This is set to be reduced by a whopping £100m in 2017/18, as the recent Conservative government manifesto announced plans to means-test the payment.

The changes are designed to stop pensioners who can afford to cover the cost of their heating from receiving the money. But having a cut-off point could also mean that those who fall at the lower end of the threshold won’t receive the money they need to heat their homes – some have suggested 10 million pensioners could be affected.

What’s the weather going to be like in winter 2017/18?

We can’t predict the future, but we’ve analysed the average winter temperatures for the UK over the last decade, to help give you an idea of what you can expect in winter 2017/18. (Figures from The Met Office)

Image of some berries on a branchAverage temperature graph between 2007 and 2017
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How to save money on your winter heating bill

If you’re worried about the cost of heating your home during the winter, you’re not alone – 61% of Brits are so stressed about energy bills that they avoid putting the heating on. But while you can’t control the wind or the rain, there are a few things you can do to save money on your heating bill this winter.

  1. Turn it down icon

    Turn it down

    It might sound obvious, but turning down the temperature even slightly can save you money in the long run. According to Energy Saving Trust, you can save around £80 by turning down the thermostat by 1 degree.

  2. Think about switching icon

    Think about switching

    If it’s been a while since you changed energy suppliers, now might be a good time to look. Which? found consumers save £240 on average on their gas and electricity bills (and sometimes more) by changing to a new provider.

  3. Check your tariff icon

    Check your tariff

    Speak to your provider and make sure you’re on the cheapest tariff – managing it online and paying by direct debit can have a big impact on your energy bill.

  4. Catch draughts icon

    Catch draughts

    Seal your windows and doors, and close the curtains and blinds at night to prevent heat from escaping through the cracks.

  5. Get smart icon

    Get smart

    Smart meters monitor your gas and electricity use and send them to your energy supplier, giving more accurate readings. They also allow you to track your energy usage and spot places where you can cut down. Energy suppliers must offer smart meters to every customer by 2020, but you can get ahead of the curve and have one fitted in your home now.

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Winter fuel allowance

Were you born on or before August 5, 1953?

You could claim up to £300

Find out more

2000 Brits ages 18+ surveyed in August 2017