'Switching energy supplier can save families as much as €321 a year'
THOUSANDS of families are turning off their heating systems during the coldest months of the year to avoid running up energy bills they will be unable to pay.
New research shows that one in four people admits to turning off the central heating or holding back from lighting the fire to keep energy costs down.
That represents about 500,000 households where fuel poverty has become an issue.
More than half of householders say they were cold in their home last winter, according to research commissioned by price comparison site uSwitch.ie.
Those between the ages of 45 to 54 were more inclined to be cold - the age group most likely to have teenage children and have a large mortgage taken out during the boom.
And half of those over the age of 55 said they were cold in their homes during winter.
The majority of people reported rationing their energy use.
It costs close to €2,000 a year to heat, light and cook in a standard home - up by around 25pc in the past two years for electricity and gas. The cost of home-heating oil has also shot up.
Eoin Clarke of uSwitch said the research showed that families were not just going without luxuries to get by, but were also denying themselves essentials such as heating.
"It's clear from this research that people are still struggling to cope with the high cost of energy bills in Ireland. With the price of energy rocketing by over €500 in the last three years, there are many people who have resorted to going cold in their own homes in a bid to reduce bills."
He advised families and those living alone to examine their energy bills carefully and to switch if they can get a better deal.
Switchers can save as much as €321 a year just by moving to a different supplier.
However, recent research released by the National Consumer Agency showed that people were reluctant to switch.
Some four out of 10 people admitted that they have never even checked to see if they could get a better deal by moving supplier for electricity and gas, the NCA study found.
Households consume more energy in the colder months to keep their houses warm.
"Switching to the cheapest available tariff is a way to save money when your energy consumption rises in the winter. Don't leave it until the first large winter bill comes in," he said.