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Martin Lewis predicts when energy prices could drop slightly

Energy bills have been the main culprit behind the cost-of-living crisis since it began early last year. Although inflation may be easing – falling to 10.5 per cent in December – household budgets remain more tightly squeezed than ever. As another cold spell snaps across the UK, many will be looking at how they’re heating their home to save money this year. New census data show how common the use of gas boilers, electricity, and renewables are in your area – check our map to find out.

Six out of ten Britons claimed they were somewhat or very worried about keeping warm this winter, according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between December 7 and 18.

A majority (56 per cent) said they were reducing their energy usage due to rising costs, while just under half (47 per cent) reported they were finding it very or somewhat difficult to pay their energy bills.

The price cap – a limit on the unit cost of gas and electricity based on a typical household’s annual usage – was raised to £4,279 in 2023, up from £1,277 at the start of 2022. In place since November, the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will also be raised from £2,500 to £3,000 in April.

While homes using mains gas and electricity are covered by the EPG, alternative means are not. Gas central heating remains by far the most common way Brits heat their homes – accounting for 74 per cent of the total. But more and more people are looking elsewhere.

Enter your postcode into the search box below to see how homes in your neighbourhood are heated…

Gas central heating remains the norm, used in almost three-quarters of homes in England and Wales (Image: GETTY, ONS)

Electricity

What does the ONS’s home heating source map tell us? After those using only gas and those reliant on a mix of heating types, electric-only heating was the third most popular option in England and Wales.

According to Census 2021, 2.1 million households were heated in this way – around nine per cent of the total. Urban areas saw a particularly high concentration of homes heated by electricity only.

Manchester’s Castlefield and Deansgate neighbourhood was found to have the highest proportion of all, with 84 per cent of households using it as their only heating source. In fact, four of the ten areas most reliant on electric-only heating were in Greater Manchester.

Households using electricity as their main source of heating typically have a lower Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) than those dependent on gas, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and are also more likely to fall below the poverty line after paying for their housing costs.

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Electric central heating

Just under ten percent of all homes in England and Wales use electric central heating (Image: GETTY)

Oil

Across England and Wales, 865,940 households – three per cent of the total – said oil was their only source of central heating.

However, this proportion was far greater in some regions, such as in the East of England, where seven out of the ten neighbourhoods where oil-only heating was the most common were found.

Oil is also favoured in parts of Wales – 68 per cent of homes in Llan-non, Cross Hands and Pen-y-groes in Carmarthenshire use it exclusively — more than anywhere else.

Homes heated by oil, LPG, coal and biomass do not benefit from the EPG, but are eligible for an Alternative Fuel Payment of £200.

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Heat pump installation

The Government is investing billions in improvements to home energy efficiency, including heat pumps (Image: GETTY)

No central heating

A small proportion of houses had no central heating at all. This was the case for 367,130 (one per cent) of all homes.

Although many neighbourhoods with the highest percentages of no central heating were in large cities such as Leeds, Birmingham, and London, the three neighbourhoods where having no central heating was most common were all in the South West.

The proportion was highest in the Isles of Scilly by a wide margin (18 per cent), followed by St Just and Land’s End in Cornwall (8 per cent).

In 89 per cent of all neighbourhoods in England and Wales, more households were found to have no central heating than were centrally heated by renewables alone.

 

Renewables

Complete reliance on renewables remains very low. Only 98,730 households in Britain – less than one per cent of the total – were powered solely by renewable sources of energy.

RenewableUK’s CEO Dan McGrail said: “The UK has made great progress in decarbonising our electricity system – renewables now generate 40 per cent of our electricity a year – but we need to move fast on decarbonising heating too.

“Solutions are already on offer. Heat pumps running on renewable electricity are going be essential in moving people off expensive gas heating, and they’re getting cheaper all the time.

“There are also trials underway in some British homes to replace gas with green hydrogen generated by low-cost renewables. So in the long term, there’s a massive opportunity here for billpayers to benefit from the switch from over-priced gas to low-cost homegrown clean power.”

Five out of the top ten areas where renewable-only heating was the most common were in Cornwall.

On Wednesday, the Institute for Public Policy Research said the Government needed to plug a £5.8billion gap in investment in insulation and other energy efficiency improvement measures for households in order to meet its carbon neutrality target of 2050.




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