Half of households say they went cold to cut bills during the winter energy crisis

As many as 12pc of people said they had felt cold all the time at home. Photo: Peter Byrne

Caroline O'Doherty

At least half of Irish householders surveyed were cold in their homes all or part of the day every day during the winter energy crisis.

Turning radiators down or off was one of the most common responses to the spike in electricity and fuel prices.

Around 80pc of people said they had to take steps to curb their energy use to try to keep their bills down as prices soared.

Between 25pc-33pc said they would not be able to pay their bill at all if it rose again.

The heavy impact the crisis had on ordinary people is made clear in polls carried out for the Department of Environment since last October.

An environmental impact is also evident as more than 40pc said they had burned more coal, wood and turf to avoid using central heating.

Amárach Research carried out the research each fortnight, asking 1,200 adults to rate their concern about the energy situation on a scale from one to 10.

Throughout the period, almost all groups opted for between seven and eight.

Just 2pc said their bills caused them no concern and they felt no need to adjust their energy use.

Around 17pc said they were concerned and needed to change their usage while at least 80pc said they were concerned or very concerned and were taking steps or doing everything possible to reduce their use.

Between 9pc and 12pc said they felt cold all the time at home because they were trying to reduce their energy bills and 38pc-42pc said they were cold at different times during the day.

Another 23pc-29pc were cold occasionally during the week while 16pc-21pc said they were rarely cold and 5pc-6pc said they were almost never cold.

Despite the discomfort people endured, many were still shocked when their bills arrived with 58pc-67pc saying they were higher or much higher than they expected.

Large numbers said they were worried that their next bill would be higher again.

The fear factor was high for most, with the top three worries being about having to be cold, inability to pay bills and a feeling of having no control over current circumstances.

Over the period, 27pc-33pc said they feared having to choose between their mortgage or rent and paying energy bills.

Just 11pc-16pc said they would comfortably manage to pay higher bills if energy prices rose again.

When asked what they were doing to reduce their energy use and save money, almost everyone said they were turning lights off when there was no-one in a room.

Between 66pc and 75pc said they were also using their central heating less, wearing more clothes and using large appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble driers less often.

More than half also took shorter showers and turned their heating down to a lower temperature.

Around a third switched energy provider where they found a better deal and a third also deployed draught excluders around the house.

Almost everyone said that when the crisis was over, they would continue to take steps to reduce their energy use.

A majority of all groups at all times felt Government supports introduced to help with the rising energy costs were helpful.