Rising fuel costs…

So fuel prices are about to go up again. I’m getting used to prices for everything going up but this is a price rise which will really hurt when it comes to winter, or actually just after when the energy companies start insisting people pay them!

The combined energy bill for the average UK home is £1,200 per year, but edging towards £1,300 after the latest price rises.

I did some research into fuel costs around 6 months ago, during the very cold winter period, which incidentally, was officially the coldest winter for 31 years , according to the Met Office. This was to try and work out what it would cost to install and run a central heating system. This could be useful to a lot of people as it’s not the sort of thing that is commonly looked into, and from the various sources i’ve looked at, it’s also not something which is easy to work out. But, this could have a big impact on how much money is being spent over the winter period.

According to www.electricityprices.org.uk, the following are the averages per household used by ofgem…

  • Average electricity usage of 3,300 kWh for standard single rate electricity that’s averaged across all regions and
  • Average gas usage of 20,500 kWh per household

We did a fair bit of research into electricity prices and consumption when the solar panels were installed, but the gas side wasn’t covered. According to The Energy Shop website, the average gas bill is £780 per year.

Other sites have the total energy figure at nearer £375 per quarter, which totals roughly £1,500. Yet another gas only figure is roughly £760, from a forum.

Another way to work it out is to separate the space heating and water heating & cooking elements, i.e. central heating from other boiler uses, such as cooking, water heating etc. Another site has a ratio of 15,200kWh for space heating & 2,500 kWh for hot water per year. This makes the gas needed for space heating 6 times more than for hot water.

So, a £770 gas bill splits as £660 for space heating and £110 for hot water. I went over our own hot water and cooking only figure to see what it is. This was easy on the British Gas comparison site, which gives you readings information from previous bills.

The comparison it’s giving us is for Gloucester, but this can be further broken down into postcode areas and more specific house types. It’s giving the average for our type of property as 3,800 KWh, with our usage being much lower, at 719 KWh, for the 3 months leading up to that point (April 11th to July 11th). Our usage is 5.2 times less than the Gloucester average!

The total was 4,046.7 KWh for 2010. Multiplied by 6.5p per KWh = £263 for hot water and cooking (not CH). If I use a 4 x ratio, the central heating cost would be £263 x 4 = £1,052.

So, non space heating = £263

Space heating (estimate) = £1,052

Total gas usage (estimate) = £1,315

Overall, the ratio seems to be roughly 4 or 5 times more for space heating, but as I said, it’s very hard to find solid information to base things on, particularly as there is almost no way in practice of separating out the heating and hot water functions, during normal conditions. To get an accurate figures for an accurate ratio, you’d have to setup two boilers which each had different functions, one for space heating and one for hot water & cooking.

Added to this is the cost of buying wood for the wood-burner, which provides most of our space heating (this year it’s £360 for 6 M3, which should be all we need). This is needed from October to March (6 months), but obviously much more during the coldest months during winter).

There is also the cost of the electricity to power the two radiators in both the bedrooms which we use during the winter at night. This is where it gets tricky, as I don’t know how long they are on for each night. The rads we have are efficient oil-filled ones from France, which only draw power for roughly 1/3 of the time that they are turned on, given that some of the heat is stored within the oil and then released slowly.

They are both 1 KW rads which are on for roughly 10 hours per day, so drawing power for 3 hours per day each, or to keep it simple, 6 hours if both are combined. So, 6 KWh (units) per day to power the rads. This is why our electric usage goes up so high in winter!

6 units per day, running for maybe 5 months over winter (estimate again), = 6 x 150 (days) = 900 units total. This works out as £0.105 per unit x 900 = £94.50.

So, the total fuel bill for us at the moment (for space heating, cooking and hot water) can be worked out as follows…

Gas = £263

Wood = £360

Electricity = £94.50

Total = £717.5

I’m not including the other electric costs for appliances as i’m focussing mainly on heating – of air, water, food etc.

The image above shows that even though we are using more than five times less gas, the cost is only three times less! Based on this, the 4 x ratio of extra gas needed doesn’t convert exactly into cost, so if I assume a 2.5 ratio for cost, this would mean £263 gas for non-space heating x 2.5 = £657 just for central heating (space heating).

£263 + £657 = £920 for all gas. So, it would roughly cost us another £657 for the gas for central heating per year. If you wanted to be really picky, you could then take away the electric cost of the rads (given we would have central heating) and part of the wood cost. This could be more like £657 minus £94.50 minus £180 = £382.50.

There are obviously a few guesstimates involved with this but it’s worth going through it before we make a decision, especially given the rising cost of fuel.



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