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Cold snap ‘endurance’ should make retrofitting the energy priority

Britons are willing to see indoor temperatures plummet to 11.3C this winter to overcome rising energy bills.

a person is skiing down a snowy hill

A new report from energy tech company Aira has painted a stark picture of how poor quality UK housing stock is impacting lives as January’s cold snap begins to bite, with 65% of Britons ready to reduce heating use this month to avoid unaffordable bills.

Furthermore, 7% were willing to turn heating off completely, which extrapolated nationally would equate to 3.7million people, with the average acceptable indoor temperature at which to reduce energy use just 11.3C – nine degrees lower than room temperature. It is believed that at 18C and below the likelihood of raised blood pressure and clotting begins to rise, posing a risk to life, even in individuals with no other health issues. Beyond this, one quarter of respondents were planning on reducing food spend this month, 24% outgoings on leisure activities, and 22% clothing costs. 

In January, a £94 was added to the average UK household energy bills through a 5% increase in the  price cap, up to £1,928 per year having only fallen briefly to £1,834 in the final quarter of 2023 as the crisis, which began in 2022, eased marginally. These latest numbers not only point to the fine financial line many households are treading to pay for many services and products that have significantly increased in price since pandemic lockdowns ended, but also emphasise the urgent need for British housing stock to be upgraded for greater energy efficiency. 

‘This research is a stark reminder that households continue to struggle with the demands of soaring energy prices and an over-reliance on imported fossil fuels,’ said Martin Lewerth, Aira Group Chief Executive Officer. ‘We believe the solution is the electrification of residential heating. We want to make heat pumps accessible and affordable for the many and provide a hassle-free, all-inclusive plan with a low monthly fee.’

Insulation has also long been tabled as a priority by many in the construction, energy, economic and environmental sectors, with Downing Street receiving widespread criticism for failing to target financial support during the winter of 2022-23 on those that needed it the most, and neglecting to use funds to establish a national retrofit programme for local authority and housing association-owned properties. Meanwhile, the first ever Global Retrofit Index, published November 2023, warned that the built environment was likely to mean every country in the G20 will fail to meet its individual net zero target date unless more is not done, much faster, to improve efficiency standards. 

More on retrofitting and energy efficiency: 

UK Government backs boiler upgrades with £1.5bn for heat pumps

WATCH: Kensington schools get £11.6m energy retrofit

Global Cooling Pledge launched at air con heavy COP28

Image:  Ainārs Cekus

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