According to National Energy Action (NEA), four million households in the UK are estimated to be living in fuel poverty, unable to heat their homes to a reasonable level. The charity suggests that over the next 15 years, the cold homes crisis will cause 100,000 premature deaths, and cost the NHS up to £22 billion. The fuel poverty problem is only getting worse for those on low incomes, due in part to rising energy bills and inadequate heating systems.
In households deemed ‘just about managing’, fuel poverty can be particularly difficult to escape. Affordable housing providers have recognised the scale of the issue, and social housing landlords have made some good progress in increasing the energy efficiency of their stock in order to meet Decent Homes Standards, but there’s still a long way to go.
For asset managers, identifying and preventing fuel poverty is an increasing priority, as the financial and health implications can be serious and costly. Although new-build social housing is now built to meet EPC standards, old housing stock is more likely to suffer from thermal inefficiencies – a pertinent issue during winter, when heating bills are highest.
We’ve seen first-hand how asset managers and housing providers are seeking new methods for spotting those in or at risk of fuel poverty. Smart meters, smart thermostats and connected boilers are examples of new IoT-enabled technologies that have emerged, designed to improve the energy performance of domestic properties, while also promoting behaviour change in tenants.
Data collected by these smart energy devices is allowing unprecedented insight into domestic energy use and can highlight how alterations in user behaviour, or the property itself, can help to alleviate fuel poverty.
The smart thermostat can allow asset managers to monitor and measure domestic environment conditions, such as temperature, humidity and motion. By amassing occupancy data, housing providers are now able to take new approaches to improving the thermal efficiency of housing stock and reduce tenant fuel bills.
What’s more, features in smart devices, such as low temperature alerts, allow asset managers to spot households in fuel poverty or at risk to it. Prior to this data becoming available, these households may have gone unnoticed.
With figures suggesting that so many lives are at risk, as well as the billions at stake for the strained NHS, fuel poverty is a problem that needs to be addressed in a concerted, collaborative way by housing providers, tenants and government.