Unpaid carers spend hundreds ensuring loved ones' homes are more energy efficient
- Over three quarters of unpaid carers (78%) have spent more time this year ensuring the home of the person they care for is energy efficient, spending over £400 on average
- Nearly half (49%) have upgraded lightbulbs to LEDs, four in ten (42%) have bled radiators, and a third (32%) have installed a smart meter for the person they care for
- Three in four (76%) unpaid carers say their costs associated with caring for a friend or family member have risen in the past 12 months
- 80% of unpaid carers have taken on more responsibility for things they knew little about, such as detailed budgeting and managing energy bills, because of the cost of living crisis
More than three in four (78%) unpaid carers have spent more time this year ensuring that their loved one’s home is energy efficient, on average spending over £400 doing so.
New data published today by Smart Energy GB has also revealed that three quarters (76%) of unpaid carers say the costs associated with caring for a friend or family member have gone up this year, by an average of £55 a month.
There are more than 13 million unpaid carers in the UK, providing care for family, friends and others. Many of them take responsibility for things like shopping, cleaning and transporting the people they look after, and others help to manage their energy use, bills and budgets more broadly.
But their skills and knowledge when it comes to different areas of life have increased, with eight in ten (80%) taking on more responsibility for things which they did not know much about, due to the cost of living crisis.
Almost two thirds (65%) have had to get a more detailed understanding about how to manage energy use and bills for the person they care for. Another 61% have had to learn more in detail about food prices, while half (48%) have had to understand more about budgeting and how to manage their loved one’s money.
In response to these findings, home energy experts at Smart Energy GB have identified three things that carers can do to help the people they look after prepare for winter and improve the energy efficiency of their home.
Keep the heat - Simple draughtproofing measures and modern insulation for homes will help retain heat. Even putting simple insulation strips around windows and doors, available for a few pounds from most DIY shops, or making sure your letter box shuts securely could help stop heat being carried away. This will help improve your heating system’s efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Service now, save later - Ensure larger appliances boilers, ovens or washing machines and medical equipment are serviced and functioning well now, so they don’t let you down later and result in an unexpected spend for you or the person you look after.
Get smart - Having a smart meter installed for the person you look after can give you more control over their energy bills and better manage finances. Use a smart meter’s in-home display to see how much appliances such as a boilers or electric radiators add to the energy spend of the person you look after, so it’s not a shock when temperatures drop.
For vulnerable customers, particularly those with sight loss, dexterity issues or memory loss, an accessible in-home display has been developed with help from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. This can be requested at no extra cost alongside the smart meter from energy suppliers.
Phillippa Brown, a home energy expert from Smart Energy GB, said:
“Unpaid carers take on a huge amount of responsibility looking after friends or family, and the cost of living crisis is only making their role more challenging. But it’s important to know that even small things can really help to ease the burden on carers and ensure that their loved ones are prepared for the colder months.
“Ensuring that the home is well-insulated and draughtproofed and appliances work properly are all positive steps. Getting a smart meter will also help the person that you care for get accurate bills, remove the need to take meter readings, and allow them and you to track their energy usage more easily.”
Seven in ten (70%) unpaid carers have taken extra steps to prepare for winter and make their loved one’s home more energy efficient. Half (49%) have changed the lightbulbs to LEDs, while four in ten (42%) have bled radiators. Around a third have invested in better quality or heavier curtains (36%), had their boiler serviced (35%), or draughtproofed the property (32%).
In addition, one in three (32%) unpaid carers have had a smart meter installed in their loved one’s home. Smart meters can be requested at no extra cost from your energy supplier, and many people with caring responsibilities have seen the benefits of having one installed.
Half (50%) said they now don’t have to worry about taking meter readings for the person they care for, while another 47% highlighted that they no longer get estimated bills, and only pay for the energy they use.
Meanwhile, one in three (34%) unpaid carers said having a smart meter has helped them better manage their energy use and bills. A smart meter comes with a handy in-home display that shows your energy use in near-real time and in pounds and pence, helping people to keep track of the energy they use and identify areas where they might be able to save money.
As a result of the changes they have made, including getting a smart meter installed, two thirds (66%) of unpaid carers said they had managed to keep the cost of energy bills down for the person they care for.
Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Carers UK, said:
“Given the soaring cost of the living crisis, the cost of energy is on everyone’s minds. The findings from this report are compelling and are in line with the recent findings from Carers UK’s Cost of Living report which found that a quarter of unpaid carers are cutting back on essentials such as food or heating, which is nearly double the rate of last year. Unpaid carers and the people they are caring for are struggling to pay for essentials such as heating and electricity which is crucial for the people they support. It is imperative that carers and the person they are caring for can keep their energy costs as low as possible. Smart Energy GB’s report highlights that even little steps, such as draughtproofing your home, can help carers achieve this. Their helpful tips of making small changes could really help carers during these unprecedented times.”
To find out more about Smart Energy GB and find out more about how to get a smart meter, visit smartenergygb.org.