Out in the cold: draughty homes mean a third of cash spent on energy bills goes straight out the window, warns Citizens Advice

A new report from Citizens Advice lays out the need for a way out of the UK’s energy crisis. Despite the recent bills freeze, it warns that many families will continue to struggle with high energy costs and cold, damp homes because of a lack of investment in basic bill-saving measures like insulation.

Three key findings from ‘Insulation Nation’:

1. Some families are seeing up to 30% of their energy bill go straight out of the window. The government’s freeze on energy prices means the average bill will be £2,500 a year from 1 October. But more than a million people living in homes with an energy performance (EPC) rating of F will face an average bill of more than £3,000. Draughty, inefficient homes mean they’re losing £950 worth of the heat they pay for through the walls, windows and roof.

2. Households would save a total of £8.1 billion per year if all homes were at EPC rating C. Currently the majority of homes in England and Wales are below this standard, a big proportion being pre-war buildings. And there are regional disparities.

People living in Wales, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber face the highest costs. Almost two thirds (63%) of homes in these areas have EPC ratings below band C. Households in London and the South East are most likely to be in a better position, but more than 50% of homes in these regions still have poor EPC ratings.

3. Almost half (44%) of homeowners are actively considering improving their homes. For those who are not, upfront cost is the main reason. There are schemes to support people to make their homes greener and better insulated, but at the moment many people are not eligible for, or aware of, the support on offer.

Rich Jones, Energy Projects Manager at Citizens Advice Brighton and Hove, says:

“Most of the people we advise are disabled or have a long-term health condition. One person we’ve spoken to is relying on her son to do her washing by hand to save on electricity. 

“She says she’s cold all the time. Several parents have told us their children's bedrooms are so damp that they've given them their room and are now sleeping on the sofa or floor instead. 

"Grants, budgeting and benefit checks can only provide some short-term relief. But improving their homes would make a big difference.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The government’s bill freeze puts an emergency stop to terrifying price hikes. Now we need an exit strategy from this energy crisis.

"Bills are going through the roof - literally for people in cold and draughty homes, where heat seeps out when they turn up the thermostat. This is burning through many people’s tight budgets.

“Insulating our homes is the long-term solution that will cut down our bills and reduce our dependence on gas. The government must make it a top priority.”



Notes to editors

  1. Further details can be found in the accompanying report ‘Insulation Nation’

  2. From 1 October 2022, the average energy bill for people living in homes with EPC rating F will be £3,096.80. £950 a year could be saved if their home was brought to EPC rating C. 950 = 31% of £3,096.80

  3. Citizens Advice estimates 1,145,545 live in homes with EPC rating F. This was projected by taking the percentage of households by EPC from Government statistics and multiplying it by the number of households in the UK.

  4. Online survey of 2,000 UK homeowners, Opinium, 23-29 August 2022: 56% of homeowners are not considering improving their homes.

  5. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  6. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.

  7. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.

  8. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.

  9. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

  10. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk

  11. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.

  12. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  13. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.