By Adam Uren
PUBLISHED: 08:48 EST, 12 November 2012 | UPDATED: 12:15 EST, 12 November 2012
Hard-pressed households are preparing for the winter blues as British Gas hikes its gas and electricity prices by £80 this Friday.
As Britain braces itself for the chilly winter months, 8.5 million customers will see the cost of heating their homes rise by six per cent, as the average dual fuel bill increases from £1,238 to £1,318.
Five of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers have announced price hikes for this winter, and energy price comparison website uSwitch is urging customers to shop around for the best deal to soften the blow to their bank balance.
Price rise: British Gas has blamed dwindling supplies in the North Sea and the cost of maintaining the National Grid for its six per cent rise.
Director of consumer policy Ann Robinson said: ‘The timing could not be worse. As winter makes its presence known, the cost of heating our homes will be taking its toll on cash-strapped customers.
‘With bills reaching an all-time high, it’s no surprise that almost nine in ten households will be rationing their energy usage this winter.
‘This means that many will be potentially gambling with their health and well-being.’
The only major energy supplier not to have announced a price rise is E.ON, which made a pledge not to hike its bills until after December 31.
Scottish and Southern Energy has already increased its bills by nine per cent; EDF Energy bills will rise by 11 per cent from 3 December; Scottish Power’s will rise seven per cent from 3 December; and nPower will increase gas and electricity by 8.8 and 9.1 per cent respectively from 26 November.
British Gas justified the rise last month by saying that Britain’s North Sea gas supplies are running out, meaning the firm has to ‘pay the going rate for gas in a competitive global marketplace’, as well as pointing to the cost of maintaining and upgrading the National Grid.
With the nation’s main energy suppliers lumping more financial pressure on already struggling households, people can potentially save hundreds of pounds by switching their energy supplier.
The best dual fuel rate going at the moment is the First Utility’s iSave v12 plan, which costs on average £1,054 a year.
Ms Robinson has also urged energy customers to take extra measures to ensure they limit their gas and electricity use.
She said: ‘There are plenty of low-cost or even free insulation offers that people should be looking to take advantage of.
‘Consumers must also take the bull by the horns and ensure they are taking the most competitive details available.’