With energy prices set to soar from this Friday 1 April, more than a third of homeowners will – or already have – switched off their heating earlier than usual this year to save on bills, according to new research published today. And, after the cold snap earlier this month, this may have left nearly 8 million households braving the cold at home due to increased money worries.
The new research from Gas Safe Register – the UK’s official registration body for gas engineers and gas businesses – suggests that, as well as switching off earlier than usual, nearly a third (31%) will skip booking their annual gas safety check this year, due to the cost-of-living crisis. This is despite a majority (77%) being aware that regular servicing can help gas appliances run more efficiently, and in turn save money on household bills.
With Spring now firmly on the horizon – April’s average maximum temperatures for the UK sit at 12C, some 2.8C higher than the long-term average figure for March, according to the Met Office – the Gas Safe Register has teamed up with meteorologist and TV weather presenter Clare Nasir, to launch a new national campaign – Switch Off, Check On – warning homeowners of the false economy and safety implications of not servicing and safety checking their gas boilers, and the benefits of doing so at this time of year before retiring them for the Spring and Summer months.
Regular checks are important
It’s vital that gas appliances are regularly checked to help prevent gas leaks and stop carbon monoxide being released. But, when recently quizzed on gas safety, only a third of homeowners knew that house fires can result from not having gas appliances safety checked on annual basis, and just under half correctly identified that collapsing and developing nausea can indicate carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from unsafe/unchecked gas appliances.
Experts recommend homeowners get all gas appliances (boilers, cookers and fires), flues and pipework, regularly maintained and serviced annually by a suitably qualified and competent engineer on the Gas Safe Register.
Checkatrade.com estimates the average cost at £80 a year to have a gas appliance safety checked, to avoid unexpected and potentially more serious issues occurring. In contrast, if a boiler breaks down, each call-out could cost up to £200 and replacing a boiler can cost thousands of pounds4. Not getting regular safety checks could also invalidate warranties or conditions of insurance policies.
The Met Office’s Head of Civil Contingencies, Will Lang, who works to help communities to stay safe and thrive in all weather, says: "March has had a typical spring mix of conditions for the UK, with a cool spell of weather early in the month, followed by a trend to more mild weather, with maximum temperatures in the high teens for many. As we continue through Spring, our advice at the Met Office is that being prepared is the best way of being ready for any potentially unsettled or unusual weather.
As people start to think about turning their boilers off, the best way of being prepared for any cold snaps is to get ahead with maintenance and get a service once you’ve finished using your boiler rather than waiting until it’s needed again. This will mean you’re ready to go if the forecast turns cooler and you’re already prepared for next winter.”
Clare Nasir, Meteorologist and TV weather presenter, said: “Spring weather can often be deceptive – especially with colder mornings, which can take many by surprise.
When planning to turn off your heating for the months ahead, it’s imperative that homeowners are prioritising gas safety in their homes and ensuring they do not skip their annual gas safety checks. Although homeowners, understandably so, are concerned about the increased cost-of-living – there are real risks to health, wealth and safety linked to not servicing and safety checking their gas appliances, such as gas boilers.
I would urge homeowners to familiarise themselves with these invisible risks and ensure you and your loved one’s safety is forefront of mind – if left unchecked – these can pose life-threatening risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Mike Fairman, CEO at Checkatrade, said: “As energy prices soar, we’ve noticed changes in homeowner demand for heating and energy efficiency measures. March is usually a busy month for boiler engineers, however so far this month we’ve seen a 28% decline in demand for repairs5. This could suggest that people are switching their boilers off early, as they seek to save money on heating bills. We’re also seeing signs that homeowners are preparing for next autumn’s eyewatering bills – with searches for smart thermostats rising sharply by 23% and insulation searches by 17% - again bucking our usual seasonal trends.
It’s important to remember that the safest and the most economical approach to gas maintenance in our homes this Spring, is to consider getting your gas boilers serviced and safety checked now – before waiting until the autumn when faulty boilers may throw up problems, once in more constant use.”
Ensuring appliances function properly can help reducing bills
Bob Kerr, Gas Services Director at Gas Safe Register, adds: “With the cost of living rising across the country, including higher energy bills, there is no denying that we’ll all be feeling the financial squeeze over the coming months and year. But, much like with our health, prevention is better than cure when it comes to gas safety and keeping you covered for the unexpected.
Boilers are among one of the most important appliances within our homes, as it keeps us warm when it’s most needed – so it’s important that we stay on top of their upkeep. A regularly serviced boiler not only keeps it working efficiently, helping reduce bills, but can also reduce the risk of gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning – keeping you and your loved ones safe.
Many engineers get busier in the autumn and winter months when central heating within homes is turned on, and at a time when badly maintained boilers throw up problems. By booking in your annual boiler service now, to detect early signs of wear and tear, replace any faulty parts and help keep it well maintained before it will be in constant use again this autumn, you can minimise disruption to your household.
That’s why we want to encourage homeowners to adopt a ‘Switch Off & Check On’ approach to gas safety this Spring, and ensure they have peace of mind by considering booking their annual boiler service with a Gas Safe registered engineer.”
More broadly, when it comes to attitudes and behaviours concerning home maintenance, whilst a majority (78%) agree that taking care of minor household jobs gives them peace of mind, knowing they have been tackled before running the risk of them becoming more serious, only a third (33%) of UK homeowners admit to getting their gas boiler serviced and safety checked at the end of the winter season, once the central heating is turned off.
Top 5 tips to switch off and check on
- Annual gas boiler, and wider gas appliances servicing, can save you in the long run – left ignored, gas related warning signs such as boilers making rattling and banging sounds, can add up when it comes to fixing them later down the line. Average costs are estimated at £2,3333.
- Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix and service your gas appliances. Using an illegal tradesperson can risk invalidating your home insurance - you can find and check an engineer at GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500. Check their Gas Safe Register ID card when they arrive – look out for the yellow triangle.
- Struggling to remember when you last booked your annual gas service and safety check? Then sign-up to Gas Safe Register’s free reminder service, where you’ll receive an email or text reminding you when it’s time to get your appliances checked. Find out more here.
- If any of the following signs are spotted, immediate expert attention from a Gas Safe registered engineer will be required - lazy yellow cooker flames, rather than flames that are blue and crisp, as well as sooty marks or stains and unexplained high levels of condensation in a room, are all definitive warning signs of unsafe gas appliances and – if left unchecked – can pose life-threatening risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get some fresh air and leave the house as quickly as possible. See a doctor and if you are very unwell call 999 for an ambulance. The National Gas Emergency Helpline is also available 24/7 on 0800 111 999.
Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas businesses which are registered to work safely and legally on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances. By law, anyone working with gas must be listed on the Register. Visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk for more information.