CHARITY bosses are worried about the effects of rising energy costs on already struggling Sunderland households.
Wearsiders are expected to be hit by huge winter bills following price hikes, averaging 7.6 per cent, from the major suppliers.
Age UK Sunderland director Alan Patchett fears the elderly will feel the pinch.
He said: “We are finding that older people are struggling to pay their bills.
“The fact that these energy bills are rocketing makes that even harder.
“A lot more older people are wondering how they can afford to live on a fixed income.
“It has such a negative effect on their health if they are living in cold conditions. It also has a serious negative effect on their mental health.”
Age UK Sunderland is urging the elderly to maintain one room at at least 21°C during the day, and 18°C throughout the night.
A study by price comparison website MoneySupermarket.com suggested that those on standard tariffs could face average quarterly bills of £530.
MoneySupermarket.com consumer finance spokeswoman Clare Francis said: “Many households will be dealing with a festive financial hangover this January so a huge energy bill will come as an unwelcome shock.
“Those languishing on their provider’s standard energy product should take action as quickly as possible. The typical saving they could make by moving to the best value fixed deal is £1,734.
“This saving would go some way to offset their costly winter bills, and by fixing their energy, they can safeguard against any future price rises over the term of the deal and ensure they don’t face the same bill shock after Christmas 2013.
“There are also simple things you can do to reduce the amount of energy you use at home.
“Turning your heating down by one degree, doing your washing at 30° rather than 40 or 60, taking a shower rather than a bath will all reduce your energy consumption.
“Collectively, over the course of the year it could save you a significant amount of money.”
The study showed that consumers typically use around 40 per cent of their annual energy consumption during the winter months.