FAMILIES are shivering in the cold rather than turning on high-cost heating systems.
The huge cost of heating and lighting the average home is prompting thousands to turn off their heating and keep it turned off even during cold snaps, a survey has revealed.
The research found that three-quarters of households went cold for long periods at home this winter.
Whenever heating systems are being used they are being heavily rationed because of sharp rises in the costs of electricity, gas and heating oil over the past few years, the uSwitch survey found.
Eoin Clarke of uSwitch.ie said it was now costing the average household more than €2,000 a year to heat and light a home.
He said the findings – of 1,000 adults – reveal the true impact of high energy costs here.
The research shows that as the financial squeeze tightens, consumers are being forced to not just forego luxuries but also have to cut down on household essentials, including heating.
"Almost three-quarters of Irish households have gone cold in their own homes this winter in a drastic attempt to keep a lid on their energy bills," Mr Clarke said.
And this could be having a knock-on effect on people's health and wellbeing, he said.
"The average household energy bill today is an eye-watering €2,140 a year and this is having a huge impact on consumers who are struggling to find the cash to keep warm."
Instead of keeping the heating off, householders were advised to take measures to make their homes more energy-efficient, and to seek better-value suppliers. If homeowners did this, they could save up to €250 annually, uSwitch said.
Meanwhile, a representative body for the engineering profession has calculated that the average household could save €700 a year by using natural gas for heating.
The Irish Academy of Engineering said that converting households from oil to natural gas would result in an average saving of €700 per household on energy import costs.
It said that gas, either piped or bulk gas for householders, was more energy-efficient than heating oil. "Switching all 300,000 oil-fired households in urban areas to natural gas would save more than €200m each year on energy import costs and significantly reduce heating bills," the academy said.