Nearly three-quarters of households have gone without heating over the winter months in a bid to cut costs and 85% of people are worried about their bills, new research has revealed.
The Big Six energy companies were widely criticised late last year after they all increased their prices – adding more strain on customers' already-stretched finances.
Now it has emerged 73% of families kept the heating off at some point during winter, with 79% admitting they have cut down and rationed the amount they use because of the increased cost, according to research carried out by uSwitch.com.
More than a third of people (36%) said that cutting back on their heating use has had a detrimental impact on their quality of life and health and 23% said they were turning it off on a regular basis.
The survey also found that 80% of people were putting another layer of clothing on to keep warm, while 57% were settling down with a blanket in order to keep the cold away. Just under half (49%) said they were using an extra duvet when going to bed.
According to independent price comparison website energyhelpline, the average increase in energy bills - after changes to the green levies which helped to lessen the blow to consumers - was 5.1%. And in November the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that rent and energy bills were now the largest drain on families finances for the very first time.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: "It simply beggars belief that in 2014 people in Britain are going cold because they can't afford to have their heating on. Keeping warm is not a luxury, it's a necessity, and severely rationing energy use can have serious consequences for health and well-being."
She added: "Rather than compromising on their health, I would urge consumers to follow the two golden rules to lowering household energy bills. The first is to ensure their home is as energy efficient as possible so that they aren't wasting energy, and the second is to pay as little as possible for what they do use by switching to the cheapest tariff for their needs."
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