Posted: 05 February 2015

Poor insulation and high energy debts leave 2 million families in the cold

This week marks Cold Homes Week, which raises awareness of the difficulties faced by families across the country that struggle to heat their home. This is an issue that we also uncovered in our report Show Some Warmth, which examines the impact of energy debts on children and families. 

The link between energy debts and inefficient homes

For many families, energy debt is the result of several factors combined, including rises in energy bills, inadequate home energy efficiency and caring for disabled children.

Our research found that many families living in energy debt live in cold, draughty homes with poor insulation. Improving the efficiency of homes protects families from high bills in the long term. 

One parent told us:'Well, it’s an old house. This is a Georgian house and the windows, they’re really draughty, they’re the original windows ... It is so cold in this house.’

Our analysis of the English Housing Survey revealed that 27% of families with children live in inefficient homes (E, F or G rated on their Energy Performance Certificate). Of families who cannot afford to keep warm, 32% are living in an inefficient home. That amounts to 184,000 families with 325,000 children.

Energy inefficiency can lead to stark choices for families

More than half of families who had been in energy debt cut back on their energy use. In some cases this was achieved by families improving the energy efficiency of their home or by switching supplier. 

However, in many other cases, they had to resort to such stark choices as not giving their children a hot meal, hot bath, or even leaving a child’s bedroom cold at night.

‘I mean I love my house, I think it’s really nice but it’s freezing cold and it’s so expensive to put the gas on. I’ve got my dressing gown on now as you can see.' - a child

The poor quality of private rental housing stock combined with low energy efficiency and insulation can lead to higher energy usage and a higher propensity of families getting into debt. Both children and parents that we interviewed made frequent reference to sash or single glazed windows, or living in accommodation with a low energy efficiency rating, which makes the cost of heating the home higher, and can further perpetuate the cycle of indebtedness that families face.

This has been further evidenced by research from Energy Bill Revolution and the Association for the Conservation of Energy, which shows that there is still a large energy efficiency savings potential in the housing stock.

We believe more can be done to help low income families

We believe that more can be done to improve the energy efficiency of poorly insulated, low income homes. The Government should build on their commitment to extend the Warm Homes Discount, which was announced last week, and commit to using infrastructure funds to make two million low income homes highly energy efficient (EPC band C) by 2020 and bring low income homes up to the same level by 2025.

We would urge you to support our campaign and show some warmth:

Join in 

By David Ayre - Policy team
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