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Concern over fuel poor Irish households facing harsh winter

Nov 24, 2020, 11:43 AM by OFTEC Ireland
Households are set to face one of the most difficult winters in recent memory due to the impact of COVID-19. OFTEC has issued advice on how to keep heating costs low.

Across Ireland, 28% of the population are currently living in fuel poverty, according to a cross-party report on climate change. With an increasing number of people earning less and spending additional time at home, those already facing financial hardships due to the pandemic could find themselves struggling to heat their homes this winter. 

With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to impact the labour market in Ireland, OFTEC, the trade association for the liquid fuel industry, is offering households advice on how to keep homes warm and costs low this winter:

  • Identify the benefits available to you: The Government has introduced several schemes in the last few months to support those struggling financially. Contact Citizens Information for information on the support you may be eligible for. 

  • Energy Efficiency Upgrade: Check with SEAI and your local Council on what upgrades are available for your home.  Many grants are available today for boiler replacements and for the provision of attic and cavity wall insulation. Energy efficiency improvements will reduce heat loss. 

  • Speak with your energy provider. Always speak with your distributor and agree a payment plan for your energy needs. Many suppliers are prioritising vulnerable groups such as older people, families with small children or those with underlying health conditions.

  • Only heat the rooms you are using. Turn down individual radiators in rooms you are not using to save money. If you have thermostatic radiator valves these can be lowered to number 1 for low background heating. Also, in the rooms you use regularly, ensure radiators are not blocked with furniture as this reduces their effectiveness. The temperature in hallways and bedrooms should be cooler, ideally between 15–18°C for persons in good health.

  • Turn the thermostat down by one degree. You can reduce your heating bill by up to 10% by lowering your room temperature by just one degree.

  • Check in on isolated neighbours: A socially distanced check in on elderly and isolated neighbours could be a lifeline for people struggling this winter.
OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings commented: "At OFTEC, we want to raise the profile of this serious issue, support those in need and be a catalyst for change.
"Living in a cold, damp home has a massive impact on quality of life and can and continues to lead to poor health. At a time where hospitals are almost at capacity, it is essential that industry, government, and research groups work together to find sustainable solutions to combat this issue."

Whilst OFTEC Ireland has previously underlined its support for the government's drive to de-carbonise the economy by 2050, it has called on the government to put its weight behind biofuel as an affordable, sustainable solution for off grid home heating.
David added, "We urge the government to consider how realistic their plans are for replacing heating systems in the off grid sector. The Climate Action Plan indicates the installation of 600,000 heat pumps in existing homes by 2030. For older, poorly insulated houses in rural areas, this will require a deep retrofit (if feasible) costing many billions of euros along with the inconvenience for homeowners during the works. In this climate, it's unlikely that homeowners will have the spare cash to invest in these works, so where will this money come from?"

"An easier and more cost effective solution would be the introduction of biofuels into the home heat strategy; a 100% biofuel offers a seamless transition for existing liquid fuel users and a simple option for Government to minimise carbon emissions in the off-grid sector at least cost for consumers."

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