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Fuel poverty means 1 in 4 choose eating over heating

Heat or Eat? That’s the question facing many families.

Energy Bill RevolutionRising energy bills are forcing many households to choose between eating and heating, according to a new survey that suggests the cost of keeping a home warm is a constant struggle for many people.

The research, published by Energy Bill Revolution, reveals that 23 per cent of people have had to make the decision to either live in a warm home without food, or eat and be cold in their house.

Overall, eight out of ten families are currently rationing heating in their homes, with 90 per cent of this proportion resorting to wearing extra clothes rather than turning on the heating.

Furthermore, 56 per cent of parents turn off the heating altogether when their children are not home, while 45 per cent are wrapping themselves in blankets during the day or going to bed early to benefit from the insulation duvets provide.

Getting worse

It is a worsening problem; recent estimates from the Department of Energy and Climate Change suggest that nine million people will be in fuel poverty by 2016 – something defined as having to spend at least ten per cent of income on heating the home.

As a result, campaigners are calling on the government to take action to quell the UK’s energy crisis by offering householders ‘super insulation’.

According to Energy Bill Revolution, the coalition could use money raised in Carbon Tax to provide homes with super insulation; something the organisation estimates could cut more than £300 from the average family’s fuel bill.

Super insulation involves the extensive conversion of lofts, walls, windows, doors and floors and could benefit half a million homes every year, the organisation estimates.

The end of fuel poverty

A petition has been launched to help spur the government into action – something that director Ed Matthew says would end fuel poverty “once and for all”, as well as tackling the climate change crisis and providing a major boost to the economy.

“This survey shows that we are facing a national energy bill crisis. We call ourselves a developed country but no one should have to make the choice between feeding their family and heating their home. But there is a solution,” he explained.

“By recycling carbon revenue to make homes super-energy efficient we can end the fuel poverty scandal once and for all. It is time for the government to get a grip on this crisis and recognise that fully insulating UK homes is the best way to drive down energy bills.”

The study was complemented by research from Netmums, which found that nine in ten families are more worried about their winter bills this year than last year.

Around a third of these people are now feeling “very stressed” as a result, though the impact is not only mental – a fifth of parents say that colder homes are making their children and other family members ill.

Winter of discontent

Sally Russell, founder of Netmums, said the findings of both studies make for “shocking” reading.

“The news that almost a quarter of families are being forced to choose between heating and eating should send shockwaves through UK society,” she added.

“These are impossible choices for families to make as both are essential to good health and children’s safety and security.”

Unless the government takes action to protect vulnerable people, the country could be set for another “winter of discontent” as energy bills continue to rise while temperatures fall, she notes.

For the millions of people in fuel poverty and the millions set to join them in the coming years, swift action would be more than welcome.

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  • It is almost impossible to insulate an old house properly. What can be done however is to eliminate dampness. Horror scenarios have been flower beds banked against the house walls three bricks above the damp-proof-course. The error was magnified by having downspouts watering the flower-beds. A colleague had worse! His nice big house was built on sloping ground but one wall was always damp. When he stripped the crumbling plaster he discovered lead sheeting and chicken wire going four feet up the wall! The problem was wet earth banked-up on the outside. The solution was to build a retaining wall to keep the wet earth away from the house. Just ridding a property of damp will make an enormous difference and the cost is usually quite modest. There will then be no need to run an electric blanket 24/7 in order to prevent clammy bed-sheets. Condensation, which is not the same as rising or penetrating damp, can be dealt with by a dehumidifier. This may not be necessary if the water from the downspouts is piped to a soak-away at least twenty feet from the house. Yet another damp problem at a friends house was caused by tarmac-layers who had blocked the downspout outlet pipes in the pavement. The new pipes were in fact dummies and rainwater would often overflow from the house gutters. This raised the water table and sometimes caused standing water in the basement. The neighbours pipes were the same! Once the pipes were fixed the basements became nice and dry. Simple!