Fuel Poverty Awareness Day – reduce energy costs and get help

Thursday, 22 February 2018 – Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement
Fuel Poverty Awareness Day – reduce energy costs and get help

With more than two in five households here in fuel poverty, this Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (Friday 23 February) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting energy efficiency tips and services that many people will find useful in tackling the issue.

A household is in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on energy costs to adequately heat the home, and Northern Ireland has a higher percentage of fuel poverty households than any other devolved region in the UK.

Tracey Colgan, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said:

“Nearly 300,000 homes here are in fuel poverty, but there are steps that people can take if they find that they have to spend a high proportion of their income on energy. It’s important for everyone to equip themselves with the right tools, and to avail of support to both help reduce the costs of fuel spending in the home and get assistance to save energy.

“There are serious health risks for people living in fuel poverty, as not being able to heat your home properly means cold and damp can contribute to respiratory illnesses, hypothermia and issues affecting vulnerable people who already have underlying health conditions.

“Keeping a room warm to at least 18 degrees, taking regular warm drinks and food, and putting on extra layers such as a blanket, or hat even when indoors, can reduce the risk of hypothermia.

“There is also help out there to offer advice and enable people to ease the burden of energy costs.

“A PHA-funded programme called ‘Warmer Ways to Better Health’ is run in conjunction with Antrim and Newtownabbey, Mid and East Antrim, Causeway Coast and Glens, and Mid Ulster Councils to support households in fuel poverty through energy efficiency advice and fuel purchasing schemes.

“In Belfast, another PHA-supported programme in collaboration with National Energy Action, ‘Northern Exposure’, aims to tackle high levels of fuel poverty in the city.

“Many low-income families struggle to keep their homes warm and both projects help to raise awareness of fuel poverty and signpost those at risk to support schemes such as the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme and the Affordable Warmth Scheme.

“During the winter, the PHA has worked with local councils as well as other statutory, community and voluntary sector partners across to distribute over 7,500 Keep Warm Packs to some of those living in fuel poverty and at greatest risk of worsening health conditions because of the cold.

“I encourage anyone concerned about fuel poverty to contact their local council to find out more about possible support services in their area.”

Top tips for keeping warm at home:

  • wear multiple layers of clothing and a hat and gloves, even indoors if it is cold;
  • heat your main living room to around 18-21ºC (64-70ºF) and the rest of the house to at least 16ºC (61ºF);
  • heat all the rooms you use in the day;
  • if you can’t heat all your rooms, make sure that you keep your living room warm throughout the day;
  • it is important to make sure your heating is safe and that your house is properly ventilated, to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you have electric controls for your heating, set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed;
  • in very cold weather set the heating to come on earlier, rather than turn the thermostat up, so you won’t be cold while you wait for your home to heat up.

For further info on fuel poverty, visit www.pha.site/fuel-poverty  

Notes to editors:

Statistics from National Energy Action showing that 42% of households in Northern Ireland are in fuel poverty can be found here – www.nea.org.uk/media/fuel-poverty-statistics/