Households will pay more than £10 a day heating their homes when sub-zero temperatures sweep Britain this week, pushing older people into “untenable positions”, experts have warned.
The Met Office has forecast temperatures across much of England could drop to as low as minus 5C or minus 6C in the coming days. This will push the cost of gas heating up by £4 a day according to calculations by trade body the Energy Utilities Alliance – costing households nearly £30 a week in higher bills.
The EUA estimated a typical household pays £3.30 a day on gas, when averaged over 12 months, an increase of £2 a day from last year when the unit price for gas was less than half what it is now.
In the winter, when temperatures are typically between 1C and 8C and households rely more on central heating, the average daily cost of gas heating rises to £6.67 – up from £2.67 for the same months in 2021.
In particularly harsh winters, when temperatures drop to minus 5C or lower, this would rise to £10.67 day, compared to £4.37 last year, the EUA calculated.
Heating bills have soared because the cap on the unit rate for gas has risen from 4p per kWh to 10p since last year.
Today's costs would be higher still if it wasn't for the Government's energy price guarantee, which caps the energy bills of a typical house at £2,500 a year.
Households have also been offered support in the form of a £400 energy rebate, which is deducted automatically from bills in six instalments over six months.
Over-65s are entitled to a winter fuel payment of between £250 and £600, which is paid automatically between November and December. This includes a pensioner “cost of living payment” of between £150 and £300. Further support is available to those who are disabled or are in receipt of Universal Credit.
Matt Copeland, of fuel charity National Energy Action, said elderly people would be “pushed into untenable positions” by the surge in heating bills. He warned they were particularly vulnerable to cold weather largely because they are more likely to have existing medical conditions.
Mr Copeland added that 13pc of homes where someone relies on critical medical equipment, which includes a disproportionate number of older people, are already cutting the use of equipment to keep on top of their bills.
He said: “Older people are also more likely to be fuel poor, as they are likely to spend longer in their homes than other people and therefore require their houses to be heated for longer periods.
“Looking beyond this winter, we estimate that 2.5 million over-60s will be in fuel poverty from April 2023, when vital government support is reduced.”
The increased cost of gas has driven households to use electric heaters in lieu of putting on the heating, according to consumer advice website Heating Hub.
However the site's Jo Aslop said this was a false economy as electric prices have also risen drastically.
Refusing to properly heat an entire home also puts households at risk of mould and damp, Ms Aslop added.
She said: “I know people who are trying not to turn the heating on at all but I don’t think we’re going to get away with that for much longer.
“There will definitely be a cohort of people on low incomes for whom all the energy efficiency advice in the world won’t help them run their heating system and be able to afford it.”