HOUSEHOLDERS have already cranked up their heating far more this year than in the same period last year because the warm summer has lulled them into believing it is now colder than it actually is.
Utility firms have witnessed a 15 per cent rise in gas usage over the past two weeks compared to the same period last year – despite the average temperature dropping by just a quarter of a degree. Figures show that the amount of gas consumed rocketed by two-thirds last weekend as the temperatures dropped, compared to the previous weekend, when many parts of the UK were still enjoying unseasonably warm weather.
Npower, one of the Big Six energy providers, said customers are experiencing a “faux winter” due to the effects of the hot summer weather.
“Because it’s been so good with hot, sunny weather for months, now that it’s dropped off a little, people think it’s colder than it really is,” said Simon Stacey, managing director of energy services at Npower.
The research found that from the beginning to the middle of September – when temperatures UK-wide have still averaged 14C – almost half of people have already turned on their central heating for the first time, while a further 23 per cent plan to turn it on within the next two weeks.
A recent study by Mike Tipton, professor of physiology at the University of Portsmouth, found that people’s bodies do become adjusted to colder or warmer weather.
“There is evidence that there is seasonal adaptation – you get used to the weather,” said Mr Tipton. “That works nicely in the spring but at this time of year where you might see a six or seven-degree temperature drop, it’s not so pleasant.”
However, Npower’s gas usage expert, Patrick Purcell, believes most people will not switch their heating to come on regularly for another few weeks. “What we’re seeing is people turning their heating on for short blasts for an extra bit of comfort, as night temperatures drop,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect to see ‘the big switch-on’ until mid to late October.”
A spokeswoman for the National Grid confirmed that gas usage across the UK had gone up significantly in the first half of September. “If you see the demand for gas go up, people are likely to be using their heating more,” she said.
The Energy Savings Trust Scotland warned that people should look to use other methods of keeping warm, such as wearing extra clothing or ensuring they have insulation in their homes.
“There are lots of schemes and grants available provided by Scottish Government, energy suppliers and local authorities that help householders install energy-saving measures in the home,” said Mike Thornton, director at the Energy Saving Trust Scotland. “These include grants for energy-efficient boilers, heating, loft insulation and cavity-wall insulation.”
Neil Clitheroe, chief executive of ScottishPower retail and generation, said: “As winter approaches, it is a good time to speak to your energy company about the support they can offer over the coming months.”