UK householders leave heating and electrical devices on for pets
Animal charity says these habits could actually ‘stress’ their pets
Energy Saving Trust urges pet owners to take control of their heating
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Worried pet owners spend £78 million extra a year on gas and electricity when they turn on the heating and TVs or radios because of concerns their cats and dogs will feel cold, stressed or alone while they’re not at home.
Energy Saving Trust research shows two in five (43 per cent) pet owners admit to leaving the heating on during the day to keep their pets warm, while a quarter (26 per cent) turn on the radio and more than one in ten (15 per cent) leave the TV on to keep them company.
More than half (53 per cent) of dog owners, worried their pet will feel cold when they’re not around, decide to leave the heating on when they go out – compared to 47 per cent of cat owners. But leaving the heating on all day for your pet could add up to £140 a year to your energy bills.
Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive at Energy Saving Trust, says: “We do understand Brits love their pets so we’re not about to start asking people to switch things off. We just want to make sure that everyone is aware of the facts so they can heat their home comfortably and affordably.
“These creature comforts do come with a cost and heating represents the greater portion of this expense. On average we spend more than half of our energy bills on heating, so to spend more money when we’re not there for pets that have fur coats isn’t essential.
“We are urging householders to programme their heating to reduce energy use and save money. Smart thermostats provide the option to control the temperature at home while you’re not there using a smartphone app, so if plans change and you will be home later than expected you needn’t waste any money on heating.”
Rosie Barclay, chairwoman of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, says:
“Our pets have different needs when it comes to staying warm and comfortable, but people are often tempted to humanise their pets, thinking they enjoy the same things us.
“Dogs and cats by and large are designed for the outdoors and don’t necessarily need the heating left on for them. It’s far better to let the temperature reduce gradually when you head off to work, then gradually increase when you get back. You can do this quite easily by programming your heating.
“Even something like leaving the television on when you go out can actually trigger separation anxiety and stress for your pet. This is because our pets are clever and associate switching on the TV or radio as an indication they are about to be left on their own and not receive your attention. It’s far better to leave your pet with a play toy with a treat hidden inside, or even hide some treats around the house, for example in a cardboard box full of scrunched up paper.
“But if that’s not an option you could give them a t-shirt you slept in and it will have your smell on it. This will likely give them far more comfort than any programme on television or the radio.”
She added: “If owners are worried about their pets’ behaviour when left alone, they can contact their vet who if necessary will refer them to a qualified animal behaviourist.”
Ross Allan, spokesperson for British Small Animal Veterinary Association, says: “As pet owners we have a legal responsibility to ensure our pet’s welfare needs are met, so the condition of their living environment is vitally important. If you have any questions about what’s best for your pet, talk to your vet; he or she will help you to make sure your companion stays comfy, whilst not hiking up your energy bills unnecessarily.”
He added it was important to understand that most animals shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods of time, dogs in particular.
Almost half (46 per cent) of people surveyed have a favourite channel for their pet to watch, with the BBC (14 per cent) and ITV (13 per cent) channels ranking high in the nation’s favourites – and now their pet’s too.
The research also found that 22 per cent of dog owners admit they regularly leave on the TV while 38 per cent switch on the radio to keep their pet company. Of those who leave a TV on for their pet, 71 per cent choose to leave on a large, high-energy consumption appliance with 44 per cent leaving it on for between one and four hours a day.
More than a third of pet owners (38 per cent) and 53 per cent of dog owners admit to even leaving the lights on for their pets when they are out. In the UK the electricity used to keep pets entertained is enough to light 56,000 homes for a full year.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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Advice: Heating your home
Get to know your heating controls. In a home without any controls, installing and correctly using a programmer room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves could save you £70-£150 a year.
Our advice covers the different types heating controls around your home and their functions:
1. Smart heating controls – Smart thermostats are a new type of heating control which connect to the internet, allowing them to be accessed and adjusted remotely. They can give you much greater control over your heating, from wherever you are, at any time of day.
2. Thermostatic radiator valves – These allow you to control the temperature of your individual radiators, allowing you to turn down the heat in rooms you are not using.
3. Room thermostat – This type of thermostat prevents your heating system from using more fuel than it needs to. It will turn the heating on until the room reaches the temperature you have set and then off until the temperature drops below your programmed temperature.
The thermostat should be set to the lowest comfortable temperature, typically between 18°C and 21°C. You don’t need to turn your room thermostat up when it is colder outside: the house will heat up to the set temperature whatever the weather, however it may take a little longer on colder days. Turning up your room thermostat won’t make your home heat any faster. Also, bear in mind that room thermostats need a free flow of air to sense the temperature so they should not be blocked by curtains or furniture or put near to a heat source.
4. Boiler thermostat – Your boiler should have a dial or a digital temperature setting. This sets the temperature of the water that is pumped from the boiler through the radiators to heat your home. Turn it up during cold winter spells to make sure you don’t get cold.
5. Programmer or time control – Once you have set it based on your regular daily routine it will automatically switch your heating off when you’re not at home, or when you can do without the heating being on. Programmers allow you to set ‘on’ and ‘off’ time periods. Most models will let you set the central heating and domestic hot water to go on and off at different times. There might also be manual overrides.
6. Setting your time control – You should set the central heating programme to come on half an hour before you get up, and go off half an hour before you go to bed. And if the house is empty during the day, or you can manage without heating during the day, make sure you’ve set the programmer to go off for this period too. Check that the clock on the programmer is correct before you set your programmes. You may also need to adjust it when the clocks change.
4. Boiler service – This is recommended every year and will help maintain the performance of the heating system. This usually costs around £100, but those living in rented accommodation should have this paid-for by the landlord. If the heating system isn’t performing effectively then it would be worth reminding the landlord about the boiler service as part of the annual safety check.
5. Electric storage heaters – These usually have two controls, an output control and an input control. Set the output control according to how warm you want to be now. Turn it to zero when you go out or go to bed, and turn it up when you are too cold.
Set the input control according to how much heat you think you will need tomorrow. You may want to turn it up if it’s forecast to be colder tomorrow, or if your house hasn’t been warm enough.
7. Oil or LPG heating – If you heat your home using oil, you may get a better deal by joining or forming a heating oil group. You can find a register of existing groups on the Citizens Advice website.
The Ipsos MORI survey of over 2,000 UK respondents was conducted between 27th February and 5th March 2015. The total sample size was 2,521, of which 515 were from Scotland.
Cost saving figures
The headline £78 million figure incorporates the additional energy spent on heating, televisions and radios for pets. The broken down costs are:
The heating figure assumes that all those pet owners who say they ‘Always’ leave their heating on for their pet (13% of pet owners, 6% of the total UK population) leave the heating on for an additional 2 hours per day every weekday throughout winter. Since this figure does not include those who ‘Sometimes’ leave their heating on (30% of pet owners, 14% of the total UK population), it is a conservative estimate. The cost for leaving heating on for an additional 2 hours a day was calculated as around £45 using a SAP based model. It is a weighted average figure which accounts for the fuel and house-type mix in the UK.
The £140 cost for leaving heating on is based on an additional 8 hours of heating a day, every weekday throughout winter. This is also calculated using a SAP-based model and is a weighted average accounting for the fuel and house-type mix in the UK.
Television and radio figures are calculated using responses from the survey regarding hours the device is left on, frequency of leaving the device on, and television size.
Pets TV and Radio Habits
About Energy Saving Trust
Energy Saving Trust is an organisation providing evidence-based advice and ground-breaking research that helps people save energy, every day.
Trusted by consumers, businesses and organisations for our expertise and independence, our goal is to find new and better ways to drive change and reduce energy consumption.
About the British Small Animal Veterinary Association
The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) exists to promote excellence in small animal practice through education and science. BSAVA was founded in 1957 as a professional body to serve veterinary surgeons who treat companion animals and now has over 10,000 members.
The majority of our members work in practice as veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses.
Guidelines for kennels indicate 10°C as an absolute minimum, and that they should not exceed 26°C. Hospitalised animals meanwhile are often kept between 18-21°C.