The latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that almost 11% of UK households exist in fuel poverty, which accounts for 2.5 million properties. Houses tend to be fuel poor because of three main reasons: high energy prices, low household income, and the energy efficiency of a home.
As ventilation specialists, the first two are out of our control. The efficiency of the home, however, is something that requires significant attention, since the move to increase the thermal insulation of homes can have unwanted side effects if not addressed correctly.
The issue of condensation
To help reduce the amount of money spent on heating the home, structures are becoming increasingly well insulated. This prevents heat from escaping, which is crucial for those who cannot afford to keep the heating on for lengths at a time. However, if heat cannot escape the property, then neither can air, and this has a negative effect on the air quality within the home.
Water droplets in the air cause issues such as condensation and damp, which as well as being aesthetically unpleasant can have damaging effects on health. Many household activities, such as drying clothes or running a bath, produce a lot of moisture that sits in the air. If a house is well insulated, this means the moisture stays in the property, ultimately exacerbating condensation and its associated health problems.
No one would suggest that homes need to be less insulated, as this would have a damaging effect on a household’s ability to stay warm. However, there needs to be adequate ventilation to ensure that air is effectively circulated, and indoor air quality isn’t compromised.
Many of the worst cases of fuel poverty occurs in social housing, which puts the onus on landlords and housing associations to provide ventilation systems that can prevent condensation and help with energy bills. Not only will this benefit the health of occupants, but it will also improve the overall health of the house. With the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 being universally applied from March 2020 onwards, it is more important than ever for landlords to provide effective ventilation for their tenants.
Action must be taken to assist anyone who is living in fuel poverty, and with measures such as thermal insulation proving a popular solution, ventilation must be considered a compulsory part of this process. In the fight against fuel poverty, we all have a responsibility to play a part in improving the health and comfort of the most vulnerable in our society.
Alan Macklin, Technical Director at Elta Group