Sales of air fryers, slow cookers, microwaves and electric blankets are soaring as households faced with unaffordable energy bills look for ways to reduce their power use.
Air fryers – a small countertop convection oven that uses less electricity than a conventional cooker – are in huge demand, with the number sold in September four times higher than in the same month last year, according to the market research firm GfK. So are electric cooking pots such as pressure cookers, rice cookers, slow cookers or multifunctional pots that can do all three things, with sales up 80%.
GfK said 216% more electric blankets were sold in September this year, as households searched for less expensive ways of staying warm and cooking food – the two most energy-intensive needs in a home.
Such is demand that some popular models of air fryer, such as the Ninja, have sold out. Asda said its sales of air fryers had increased 320% increase on year, while those of slow cookers had more than doubled and sales of heated airers increased by 90% up compared with last September.
Kelly Whitwick, the head of retail insights at GfK, said consumers’ concerns over the energy and cost of living crisis had quickly led to a shift in buying patterns.
“Despite such a mild autumn, buyers are already investing heavily in products to help through what is expected to be an incredibly challenging winter. In the coming months we expect to see consumers spend more conservatively and focus on items that enable them to save as much money as they can,” she said.
Slow cookers, a 1970s favourite, are now the bestselling electrical item at the department store chain John Lewis, where sales of microwaves were up 40% and smart thermostats, which make it easier to control heating systems, up by a quarter.
Onesies, thermals and slippers have become this season’s hot fashion items as many save on bills by turning down the thermostat. Lakeland sold out of the first shipment of its £90 electric heated poncho, although another consignment is expected in November.
Sales of insulation materials are also on the rise. DIY chain B&Q reported a 65% surge in sales of loft insulation rolls in August compared with a year before and a 13% increase in draught excluder sales.
Even the celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has got in on the act, promoting cheap and quick-cook recipes via a new deal with Ocado. Jamie Oliver’s cookbook featuring meals that can be made in one pan – potentially saving energy – is the non-fiction bestseller.
While there are many cost-free ways to cut down on energy bills, such as ensuring there is a full load in the washing machine, turning off unused lights, cutting down shower times and not overfilling the kettle, retailers have been marketing gadgets as the answer.
Emily Seymour, the energy and sustainability editor at consumer group Which?, said energy-saving gadgets such as air fryers can lead to significant savings but warned that at more than £200 for top of the range models, “consumers should consider the upfront cost of the air fryer when determining any energy cost savings”.
“Those looking to cook bigger meals should probably consider sticking to an oven because you’re cooking more food in the space you’ve heated,” Seymour added.
According to MoneySavingExpert, consumer champion Martin Lewis’s website, there are savings to be made by using certain technologies, although that has to be offset against the cost of purchasing the item. It costs about 3p an hour to run an electric blanket, for example, meaning the average weekly usage would add up to just £1.47, a cost-efficient alternative to central heating.
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The website also found an air fryer used 34p of electricity an hour compared with 68p for an oven, while an electric air dryer cost 8.5p an hour compared with £1.02 for a tumble dryer – which works out as one of the most expensive items to run in the home.
The hunt for savings comes after it emerged that families are already about £141 worse off a month on average, according to the latest Asda income tracker. This is primarily because of soaring gas and electricity bills, the prices for the former having almost doubled year on year.
With bills on the rise, more people are being pushed on to prepayment meters and more than 2 million households are in debt on the energy bills.
Citizens Advice has said its advisers have been told of people unplugging fridges and freezers, washing clothes by hand and skipping meals in order to cut back on their energy costs.
Last week, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, rolled back the former prime minister Liz Truss’s pledge to freeze energy bill rises, reducing support from two years to six months.
The plan, which could change again with Rishi Sunak as prime minister, now offers a £2,500 cap on the annual price of the typical dual-fuel bill until the end of April. After that point, support will only be offered to the most vulnerable people, with forecasters predicting a typical household would face energy bills rising to more than £4,300 annually.