This post is a collaboration with University of Kent students. The opinions in this piece are those of our guest blogger and do not necessarily represent those held by Sustainability Connections.
Guest blog by: Charlie Hatherley
Now that winter is looming many households are struggling to heat their home adequately and often choosing whether to 'heat or eat'.
The fuel poverty gap is a term used to describe the difference between how much a household spends on fuel, and what they would actually need to spend to live in comfortable conditions.
Fuel poverty is a term that just won’t go away. It’s on the news and on flyers everywhere. If to heat your home adequately you would need to spend more than about £1200 a year on fuel, and doing so would leave you with income below the official poverty line then it is likely you would be classed as ‘in fuel poverty’.
Households with the highest levels of fuel poverty
Is it just me? How common is fuel poverty?
One in ten households in England is fuel poor and faces the ‘eat or heat’ scenario in the colder months. The number of households in fuel poverty is rising, the cost of living is rising and the cost of fuel is rising. It is harder and harder to set aside the money to make homes more energy efficient and often people in fuel poverty are renting making this even less possible.
What can you do to keep yourself warm and spend less money on fuel?
Understand your bills to work out whether you are paying more than the average to heat your home.
Look for a cheaper deal – this often means changing to a provider offering fuel at a cheaper price.
Try to save energy wherever you can. Use thermostats on your radiators if they have them and the timer if you have central heating. Replace light bulbs with low energy bulbs, take showers rather than baths, use draught excluders, switch appliances off rather than leaving them on standby.
Find out whether you are eligible for help with bills (for example the Warm Home Discount is available for those on certain types of benefit). Help is also available to make your home more energy efficient (you may be eligible under the Energy Company Obligation scheme to receive a discount towards insulating your house or putting in a more modern and more efficient boiler if you are on certain benefits).
If you are in debt
If you are in debt and/or cannot pay your bills there may be extra help for you; there are a number of charitable trusts that you can apply to, even some energy companies have set up charitable trusts.
What do I do next?
There is a lot of information that may help you on the internet - see the link below for example.
This November Sustainability Connections is running a Power Cafe in Folkestone where trained Energy Champions can help save you money. Energy Champions are not selling anything and are not paid a fee by any energy provider (the funding to provide this help comes from the Lottery).
Visit the Folkestone Power Café to see how much you can save - see details on our website
For more information about fuel poverty provided elsewhere on the internet and ideas about what you can do visit