Along with the Warm Front programme, the Winter Fuel Payment scheme helps around 12m households in the UK overcome fuel poverty every year.
Almost everyone over the age of 60 is eligible for a payment, with those aged over 80 appropriated additional funds to make their energy bills more manageable. Variable payouts depend on personal living circumstances, with anything up to £300 available for the most vulnerable.
For example, if you’re 60 and live alone, you’re entitled payout is £200. That sounds like a nice bundle of money to put aside to cover your bills at the time of year where you need to heat your home the most, but in practical energy price terms, what does that actually equate to?
During the winter people are in their houses for long periods, and therefore using many of their electrical appliances for longer periods of time. With no natural sunlight streaming through the windows, light bulbs are on for longer and a household with 10 bulbs on for 120 hours will be paying around £12 per month.
Add to that a washing machine (£2.40 per month), tumble dryer (£4.80), television (£1.80), vacuum cleaner (60p), iron (£1.12), toaster (48p) and kettle (£1.32) and you can soon see how the monthly costs start adding up without even turning the heating on. There’s nothing like a steaming cup of tea on a cold day, but every time you turn that kettle on, it does have an impact on your bill.
Temperatures drop, heating bills rise
The same can be said every time you turn up your thermostat – it’s estimated that daily heating and hot water bills increase by 28p for every degree drop in the outside temperature. If temperatures in your area are around 7°C below normal, that works out at an extra £60 to your monthly bill.
There is no such thing as the average monthly heating cost as there is a huge variation in property type, location and usage of gas, electricity or domestic heating oil. Offering an educated estimate, over the summer most people expect to pay around £80-100 for three months worth of heating an average sized three-bedroom house. During the winter months, this can be closer to the £300-400 mark, even if you’re out for most of the day.
Going beyond heating, there are many other uses of fuel within your household that you’ll be paying for which can have the side effect of heating your home. Anyone who has come in from a winter stroll to a Sunday roast cooking away will know how it can add to the overall warmth of a house.
Cooking a meal with a medium sized gas oven will cost you around 10p per use (based on 223 uses per year). Cooking on a gas hob however will only cost you around 3p (based on 424 uses per year).
That means for our 60 year old living alone their payout of £200 would pay for the £36.60 they spend every year on cooking two hot meals a day, which will usually be more frequent when the weather is colder. For those cooking using electric ovens and hobs, the costs would considerably more, coming in at around £69.10 over the course of twelve months.
The Winter Fuel Payment is a welcome boost for anyone finding it hard to manage their bills, but there is still a lot you need to consider about how you live to ensure you’re using energy in an efficient and economic way.