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Baker Homes Blog

Low income households use most gas and worst hit by rising energy costs

Posted by Begum Bidik Nash on 30-Oct-2022 07:30:00

Baker Homes and partners undertook a national study to test the effectiveness of practical ways to deliver information to domestic energy users to encourage them to save energy. The following is the first instalment of the second major report we published of our findings which focuses on understanding residents’ perceptions of energy and how they use energy in the home.

 The methodology of the main National Energy Study can be found in the Part One report: ‘A study of the effects of feedback on domestic energy use’. The Part Two report focuses on responses to the questionnaires completed by over 300 participants, which looked at how people perceived their energy use, their habits, and how they were managing their bills. It also asked who they would trust to provide advice on energy savings.

 Who answered the questionnaire?

Responses were received from the residents of all 14 participating housing associations: Catalyst Housing Group, CityWest Homes, First Wessex, Gentoo Green, Hastoe Housing Association, Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association, Magenta Living, mhs Homes Group, Midland Heart, Nottingham City Homes, Octavia, Orbit Heart of England, The Regenda Group and Swan Housing Association. Figure 1 provides a map of the responses received based on the postcodes of the participants.

 The annual household income of the respondents (Figure 2) showed that the average household income was £16,005, well below the national average of £26,500 (DWP, 2013). This gives useful insights into energy use of those on lower incomes. However, households with income above £30,000 are underrepresented in this study and care should be taken in interpreting their responses.

The study also revealed that the participants with the lowest incomes had higher gas consumption, while electricity consumption increased with rising income levels (Figure 3). Although these findings hint at an interesting pattern, this demographic on its own do not define how much energy a household consumes. This reinforces the fact that energy use is determined by a complex set of predictors including personal choices and habits.

Residents’ experiences with energy bills The participants were asked about their current experience with energy bill payments. Seventy-one percent commented that they were either ‘getting by all right’ or managing the payments well/very well (Figure 4). Nevertheless, 69 participants (22%) reported that they were having some difficulties with the energy costs, while 13 (4%) reported severe difficulties.

This perception of ability to pay bills was in proportion to the household’s income, as one might expect, but did not correspond closely (see Figure 5). Surprisingly, of those with household income less than £5,000 per year, more than 60% stated they were ‘getting by all right’ or ‘managing well or very well’ with their bills. Only 9% of the lowest income group reported ‘severe difficulties’ with paying. Despite this, this group also used more gas (and slightly less electricity) than people in higher income groups – possibly owing to spending more time at home, or because of being elderly. They also found it more difficult to keep their homes warm, and had a lower take up of energy-saving behaviours than other groups. Those having difficulties with their bills are certainly a cause for concern, however the implication that people falling into the definition of being ‘fuel-poor’ may not consider themselves as such would bear further investigation. If a majority don’t consider themselves in this category, then a different approach to energy savings should be considered for them.

We are running a second National Energy Study this winter. The focus is behaviour change and analysing actual energy use relative to SAP performance. If you are a landlord with over 400 2-bedroom homes and interested to be involved, please contact Andrew Eagles, andrew@bakerstimber.co.uk or here

Was this report interesting? Click on the links to access the other sections of this report: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 or access the full report here.


Baker Homes and partners host a leading national conference on new builds "Building to low carbon cost-effectively". This one-day conference takes place on 22nd October in London and 4th November in Manchester. For more information and to register, click the button below.

Baker Homes, SHIFT, New build, building to low carbon, housing standards

Topics: National Energy Study, Behaviour change, Residents, Bills

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