With more than two in five households here in fuel poverty, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is using Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (Friday 17 February) to highlight energy efficiency tips and services that many people may find useful in helping to tackle the issue.
A household is in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10% of income on energy costs to adequately heat the home, and Northern Ireland has the highest percentage of fuel poverty households than any other region in the UK.
Tracey Colgan, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said:
“Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is a good reminder 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 be aware of where to find help and assistance to save energy.
“There are serious health risks to those 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.
“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 ‘Northern Exposure’ aims to tackle high levels of fuel poverty in the city.
“Many low-income families have home heating and insulation problems 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.
“In the first instance the PHA would 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 the National Energy Agency show that 42% of households in Northern Ireland are in fuel poverty – www.nea.org.uk/media/fuel-poverty-statistics/