Settling for colder homes as energy prices rise: evidence from 4200 households in Great Britain


2022 saw steep rises in energy prices in Great Britain. With gas space heating responsible for around half of domestic energy consumption, reducing home thermostat setpoints has the potential to significantly reduce demand and household energy bills. The Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) has been collecting smart meter and contextual data from around 13,000 GB households since 2018. In early 2023 SERL sent a survey to participants about their recent energy-saving behaviours along with dwelling and household information (including income and usual heating thermostat setpoint), receiving over 5,000 responses. This paper presents a statistical analysis of how self-reported SERL participant temperature setpoints changed in winter 2022/23 compared with those they had reported previously. We analyse the variation in temperature settings with household (e.g. size, ages, income) and building (e.g. floor area, EPC rating) characteristics. We combine smart meter and financial circumstance data to identify those likely to be in fuel poverty and compare the thermostat setpoints of this group with the wider sample. We also investigate the characteristics of the households most likely to have reduced their setpoint. The results show a significant reduction in reported thermostat setpoints in winter 2022/23 compared to winter 2020/21. The proportion of households reporting a setpoint lower than 18°C increased from 6.7% to 15.2%. While there are obvious energy efficiency benefits from thermostat reduction, the large share of households with temperatures lower than the recommended minimum highlights a concern for policy makers.

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