December 04, 2013 06:53 ET

Heating Bill Rises Bigger Concern for Pensioners Than Falling Ill This Winter

- 21% of people aged 65+ worried about the cost of heating this winter

- Average winter energy bill to top GBP 100 a month

- 9% unsure how they will pay their bills

WALSALL, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - Dec. 4, 2013) - Keeping warm this winter is a bigger concern for pensioners than falling ill or being left housebound, with a majority revealing that their heating bill is set to be their largest outgoing over the coming months, according to new research.

Figures from HomeServe, the home emergency specialists, find that one in five people aged 65 or older (21%) are worried about their heating bills this winter, second only to slipping and injuring themselves (31%) and ahead of falling ill (17%) or being left housebound by the weather (13%).

A majority of pensioners (54%) give their heating bill as one of their largest outgoings, with one in 10 (11%) braced to pay a bill that's more than they can afford and 9% unsure how they will pay for it.

The nation's pensioners say they are able to pay £90 on average for their heating and electricity combined. However, estimates from HomeServe suggest that this is in fact likely to rise to more than £103 - and could be significantly higher in the event of a bitter winter.1

As a result, one in 10 (9%) will have to raid their savings to keep the heating on, while just under one in 30 (3%) will have to put their bill on a credit card. One in three (33%) say they will have to ration when they have the heating on, with one in four (25%) only heating part of their homes. Yet both these can jeopardise their health and wellbeing and, if homes are not effectively insulated, can in fact be a false economy.

HomeServe Memberships CEO Jonathan King said: "For pensioners and other people on limited, fixed incomes, winter can be a chilling time in more ways than one, with heating tariffs soaring even as the temperature plunges. One in two say that their bills have risen faster than their pensions and even a small increase can cause problems for people with no spare cash, especially at Christmas.

"But it's not just the cost of keeping their homes warm; it's also the worry of what happens should their heating break down, which could leave vulnerable older people isolated and waiting for an emergency plumber for prolonged periods of time in a cold house. And with a replacement boiler costing more than £300, that's another cost that many just won't be able to meet."

The cost of bills is also not helped by older people's increased likelihood of turning to inefficient forms of heating, such as gas fires (16%), portable radiators (9%) or electric blankets (9%).

And the cost of heating bills is not pensioners' only worry about keeping warm this winter. A fifth (21%) have concerns about what to do should their boiler break down, with six in 10 (58%) admitting that meeting unexpected outgoings - like a broken boiler - is difficult on a pension.

Although state help is available for many people aged 65 and older, the research reveals widespread ignorance of schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). 22% of the over-65s have not heard of ECO grants for new, more efficient boilers and 15% have not heard of free insulation available through the scheme. A further 32% are unaware of the Warm Home Discount, which discounts bills during the warmer part of the year.

Advice to cut the cost of heating this winter:

  1. More radiant radiators

To make your radiator more effective, put aluminium foil between the radiator and the wall. This acts as a heat reflector instead of allowing it to pass straight through the walls. If you have high ceilings, shelves above the radiator can also help.

  1. Get on your high horse

Use a clothes horse instead of drying your clothes on the radiator directly, stopping heat reaching the rest of the room and also making the boiler work harder to reach the desired temperature, increasing the amount of energy used.

  1. Don't touch that dial

If your home is cold first thing in the morning, turning up your thermostat to a higher level won't make it heat up more quickly. Instead, set the boiler to come on a little earlier, this will use much less energy.

  1. Be ECO friendly

The Energy Company Obligation was introduced this year to help reduce the amount of energy we use and help those living in fuel poverty. It provides a series of grants to people in certain circumstances and postcodes for insulation and more efficient boilers. Visit your energy company's website to find out if you're eligible.

  1. Get it covered

If your boiler breaks down in the middle of winter, as well as the discomfort of being without heating and the hassle of finding a tradesman, putting things right can also be costly - the average price of a repair is more than £300 according to uSwitch while boiler cover can cost just £48 a year.

  1. And shop around

Many people use the heating cover provided by their gas company. But there are other options on the market - the savings calculator on HomeServe's website ( will show just how much you could save - and purchases of HomeServe's Cover 8 when you switch to us currently come with £100 cashback. (Subject to Terms and Conditions)

Notes to editors:

Research carried out online by Canadean Consumer among a representative sample of 2,005 UK adults in November 2013.

1. HomeServe's Homeownership Index found that the average energy bill last winter (December 2012 to February 2013) was £133.05 for gas and £147.85 for electricity. Recently announced energy tariff rises are c.10%. Therefore 133.05 x 147.85 x 1.1 = £308 a quarter, or £102.99 a month. 2013.

About HomeServe

With over 2,700 directly employed and sub-contracted engineers, HomeServe is a national emergency home repair service backed by a 24 hour claims handling and repair network.

HomeServe's tradesmen service provides households with access vetted tradesmen who are qualified to carry out hundreds of different jobs around the home.

Homeserve also offers insurance cover for plumbing, drains, electrical wiring and gas central heating.

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