More action must be taken to help households experiencing fuel poverty to help prevent further unnecessary deaths from living in cold homes.
The warning comes ahead of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (23rd February), a national campaign to highlight the growing number of people who struggle to pay their energy bills.
It is estimated 11% (2.5 million) of homes in England are ‘fuel poor’, meaning they cannot afford to keep warm at a reasonable cost given their income.
Households in rural parts of the county experience on average a £700 gap between their energy bills and what they can realistically afford, more than double that of urban areas*. This is largely due to rural houses typically being older, less energy efficient and harder to effectively heat.
As a result, many people resort to turning off their heating or turning down the thermostat to save money, but this could be putting their heath at risk. According to the NHS, the risk of death is doubled on days where outside temperatures fall below 0C compared to a typical day of around 20C.
With February seeing some of the coldest weather of this year’s winter so far, and as part of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, is offering advice to households on low cost ways to maximise their heating:
- Adjust your heating timers as the weather changes
- Bleed radiators to make them more effective
- Improve insulation to reduce heat loss
- Purchase heating oil early to avoid emergency call out charges
- Have your boiler serviced by a qualified registered technician (OFTEC for oil or GasSafe for mains gas) to check the system is working correctly and efficiently.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, said: “It is shocking that in 2018 fuel poverty continues to be such a major problem and a source of great distress for so many. The cold weather this February has made the last few weeks particularly difficult, especially in rural parts of the country where houses tend to be less well insulated against the cold.
“As part of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, as well as offering advice, we will be contacting local MPs to urge them to take steps to help vulnerable households. This could include supporting the introduction of a boiler replacement scheme because upgrading to a modern oil or gas boiler can reduce fuel bills by around £200 a year.”
*Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, BEIS June 2017