A post from a friend pops up on my Facebook page. ‘It’s August 9th and the winter tights are on.’
I feel her pain. Last weekend I bought logs and smokeless fuel, and I don’t mean for the barbecue. Yesterday I went shopping wearing a cardigan, a coat and armed with an umbrella.
For the love of god, where is our summer? I appreciate that living in the North of England means I’m less likely to spend June and July slathered in sun cream in the back garden but come on! This is getting beyond a joke.
Thankfully, it seems that my pal and I are not the only ones reaching for the thermals. According to a new study, Britain is a nation of cold weather cowards who rush to put the heating on at the slightest sign of a chill (in the north, we call this proclivity being a bit ‘nesh’).
Emo Oil found that more than a third of people turn on the heating during the summer months despite generally warmer weather.
In a survey of 1,084 UK homeowners, the oil specialists discovered that fewer than one in three people put an extra layer on when the unpredictable Great British weather takes a cool turn, despite this being common advice from older generations.
In total, we turn the central heating on 18 times on average during the summer months.
None of this surprises me. Although I am sceptical of the statistic that women are more likely to switch on the central heating, doing so 24 times on average during the summer months, while men do so just 12 times. It’s long been my experience that boys are more nesh than girls.
Suzanne Waddell, marketing manager at Emo Oil, said: ‘It’s shocking to see just how easily Britons are tempted to switch on the heating for instant satisfaction during summer. Although there’s no guarantee of warm weather during the Great British summer, there are alternatives to turning the central heating on.
‘The research shows a picture of who in the UK is quickest to hit the thermostat for a blast of welcoming warmth, with a north-south divide quite apparent – those further down south seem to hold their nerve a little longer.’
Given that London is, on average and at any one time, approximately four degrees warmer than say, Manchester, it’s to be expected that southerners feel less inclined to turn the radiators on during the summer. According to Emo Oil, those in Durham are most likely to turn on their central heating, followed by Carlise, while those in Bristol resorted to central heating help, followed by Manchester (well done Mancunians).
Surveys like these are a bit of fun but there’s a serious issue behind them. Energy is expensive. The comparison site Gocompare estimates that a typical household could save as much as £207 a year by switching their gas and electricity provider – but many people stick with their existing company, wrongly thinking that switching is more trouble than it’s worth.
To make matters worse, more than 15 of the cheapest energy tariffs have been withdrawn from the market since the start of June and replaced with plans costing up to £105 per year more. The rises have been blamed on increasing wholesale prices, which have been creeping up since February, combined with the effect of market instability and a lower pound following the Brexit vote.
Thankfully, an industry shake-up is on the way. Last week the regulator Ofgem announced its response to a two-year investigation into how gas and electricity companies sell energy.
The big news for people who are on a prepayment meter is that from April 2017 there will be a cap on how much companies can charge you. Ofgem estimates that these households will save around £75 a year.
Other proposals are to be consulted on, but it’s expected that from next year we’ll see more tariffs on offer to encourage suppliers to lower prices and offer exclusive deals to customers, comparison sites and other groups.
It’s also likely you’ll be contacted more often, possibly by letter, by other energy companies if you’re on one of the more expensive tariffs.
This is all good news. In the meantime, however, why not take a leaf out of my friend’s book. She ended her Facebook post with ‘feeing a bit warmer now, must have been down to the scarf’.
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator