Millions of energy customers could be in for a substantial bill shock this Autumn due to a combination of increased energy usage over lockdown and as working from home continues, according to research from comparethemarket.com. A rise in usage may lead to households without a smart meter and those who do not receive a manual meter reading from their supplier rack up an unforeseen debt balance of £145 to date.

If left unchecked until the end of the year, the research reveals that households may unknowingly owe their energy supplier as much as £294 more than they expected, working on the assumption that they continue to use more energy due to lockdown and new home working conditions.

Previous research from comparethemarket.com found that 72% of households in the UK had seen energy usage surge in the first half of the year in many household appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines, ovens and hobs, lighting, gaming, TVs and laptops. As a result, the average household could face a 37% rise in their energy bills.

Domestic energy usage is typically lower in the summer months but increases in the last three months of the year. A colder than usual autumn or winter could lead to households owing even more for their energy bill if they are working from home when last year they would not be doing so.

The issue could be even more pronounced for a household that had to take a payment holiday. If a 3-month payment holiday was granted, and that the same household also increases their energy consumption in the colder months, they could face an additional £316 debt and may end 2020 with a substantial £610 debt balance.

Peter Earl, Head of Energy at comparethemarket.com said “There is mounting concern that millions of households could be facing a substantial debt balance on their energy bills at the same time as the temperature drops. A combination of lockdown and millions more people working from home has meant energy usage has shot up. Many people pay their energy bills by direct debit, set up when they first opened their account. However, if their meter reading is out of date they could be in for a substantial shock when this is finally updated to reflect their actual usage. As such, we highly recommend that energy customers take a reading of their gas and electric meters now. One way that households can substantially reduce the amount they pay for their energy is to switch supplier. All too often, millions of households roll over onto their supplier’s standard variable tariff when they could save hundreds of pounds by switching to a competitively priced one or two-year fixed-rate tariff.”