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False start to winter makes brits turn on their central heating early

• Energy company reports 65%* spike in weekend usage, but people will be turning the heating back off in a few days

• Last weekend of October is likely to be the real 'Big Switch On' when families will succumb to the winter chill and put the heating on for winter

• npower provides energy saving tips to help customers prepare for winter

WE'VE barely packed away the sun cream and already families across the country have succumbed to the autumn chill and switched on the central heating.

However, npower – who reported a 65% surge in gas usage last weekend – say families have been putting the heating on for short periods over the last few days due to them experiencing a "faux winter" where it feels colder than it really is because we've had such a hot summer. September has been marginally cooler, by 0.25°C, than the same time last year and yet gas usage is 15% higher.

npower says the faux winter will last until the end of the week before temperatures increase and demand drops again.

npower’s gas usage expert, Patrick Purcell, believes this is a false start and that people won’t set their timers and turn their heating on for winter fully for several weeks.

He said: "What we’re seeing is people turning their heating on for short blasts for an extra bit of comfort, as night-time temperatures drop. Looking at previous years, the weather forecast and listening to what our customers are saying, we wouldn’t expect to see ‘The Big Switch on’ until mid to late October."

According to npower’s research, Saturday October 26th may well be the time that the real Big Switch On for 2013 takes place: that's the time when 60% per cent of households expect to opt for an evening in front of the TV and turn the heating on, according to a survey of 1,000 people nationwide.

npower also received insight from its new 3,000-strong customer advisory panel about their switch on habits – and has also been talking to 20 families from across the UK about their energy usage as part of its 'Me and My Energy' programme, in order to gain a better understanding of households’ needs and put customers at the heart of its business.

The research found that from the beginning to the middle of September 45% of people have already turned on their central heating for the first time, when temperatures still average 14°C, 23% plan to turn it on within the next two weeks and 18% per cent will hold out until November or later.
Typical of those people who will turn on their heating is mum of one, primary school teacher Charlotte Goodyear, from Corsham in Wiltshire, who is one of the 20 customers npower is working with to give them a better service.

The 33-year-old who lives with husband Simon, an IT expert who often works from home, and their toddler son, said: "It suddenly felt really cold and wintery at the weekend and for the first time this year we caved in and put the heating on.

"Usually we avoid it for as long as we possibly can but I've heard it's going to warm up again next week so then hopefully it'll stay warm for a little while longer to save us some money. I always like to put the heating on when it's cold and dark outside. My son has a bath before bedtime and Simon and I curl up on the sofa and watch a film."

Simon Stacey, managing director energy services, said: "We've had such an amazing summer, but because it's been so good with hot, sunny weather for months, now that it's dropped off a little, people think it's colder than it really is. We understand that winter is an expensive time for our customers and there are some simple ways to get ready for now, before the real cold weather sets in.”

npower's getting ready for winter checklist:

Some of these tips may seem very simple but they can make a big difference when it comes to reducing your fuel bill

• Fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors
• Ensure your loft has at least 11 inches of insulation
• Set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off after you've gone to bed
• If it's very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up
• When the clocks go back, change the time on your heating to make sure that still get heating when you need it
• Set you heating to no higher than you actually need it
• Turn your lights and appliances off when you’re not using them
• Close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms you use most
• Position furniture so it's not obstructing radiators
• Avoid pre-rinsing dishes in hot water before they go in the dishwasher
• Replace a traditional light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb
• Switch off appliances at the plug
• Keep your radiator valves on low, not off, in the rooms you don't use
• It is better to have your heating on at a low temperature for at least 30 minutes before you get home than turning it right up when you get in
• It is better to have your heating on a lower temperature for a few hours than on high and switching it on and off
• It is best to have your hot water tank set to 60 degrees
• Only ever increase your thermostat by a maximum of one degree at a time

Check out if you're entitled to free energy efficiency measures at

Or, for further energy efficiency advice or help call npower on: 0800 020 22 20

*an increase of 65% in the volume of gas used on Saturday 14th September 2013 compared to the previous Saturday 7th Sept 2013

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,037 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th-17th September 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).’