Keeping warm, whatever the price, whatever the weather


I am beginning to think that winter is never going to end. By now we should have mild March breezes, sunshine and showers – and daffodils. But instead we’re facing icy winds from the East and 10-foot snowdrifts.

But of course, that’s the British weather. With all our technology, we can just about predict it, but we certainly can’t control it.

At the end of a long cold winter, we are also facing steeply-rising energy prices. The Office for Budget Responsibility this week predicted a 7% rise in energy costs this year, and a 3% rise next year.

This has an impact on us all – but particularly those on low incomes who need to keep warm, and that means that older people living on low and fixed incomes are disproportionately affected.

These people shouldn’t be at the mercy of the weather and the market – but what can we do? Age UK and others think that now is the time to concentrate on the missing piece of the jigsaw: the quality of our housing.

The UK has some of the least energy-efficient housing in Europe, which means that our heating bills are some of the highest, despite the fact that we pay less for our energy per kWh than almost any other European country. We end up paying for a lot of energy which is burned without generating heat by inefficient boilers, or simply leaks out of the doors, windows and lofts of our homes.

Talk about energy efficiency and many of us stop listening. It is, to be honest, a pretty dull subject. But we are going to need to get thinking about it soon. Unless we do something about the housing stock in this country, more and more vulnerable older people and families will be unable to afford to heat their homes.

The choice to ‘heat or eat’ is a cliché – but that doesn’t stop it being true.

I have made the case before on this blog for more funding for energy efficiency. The Government has brought in new schemes – the Green Deal and ECO – and Age UK is watching these with interest. We’d be delighted if they do deliver the improvements we have been promised, but our experience leads us to be sceptical as to whether they will.

As part of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign we are actively calling for a much more significant programme of investment to make all our homes more energy efficient. Along with a range of organisations as diverse as Friends of the Earth and the energy companies E.on and npower, we want the Government to use the money it is receiving carbon revenues to fund this.

You can add your voice to the campaign, and email your MP.

The weather forecast for the next few weeks is pretty grim and spring still seems a way off. But a change in the weather will come eventually. An improvement to our cold and inefficient housing stock is possible too – but it won’t happen unless we can convince our politicians that this is what is needed.

Find out more about Age UK’s Spread the Warmth campaign and why we need to protect the health of older people in winter at

Read more about the Energy Bill Revolution

5 thoughts on “Keeping warm, whatever the price, whatever the weather”

  1. usually by mothers day i have a passable bunch of daffodils in my garden. this year? not a glimpse. they stayed well beneath the soil apart from a couple that were about 2 inches tall. no flowers though.even the snowdrops in next doors garden didnt show their face until beginning of march and his crocuses? none there at all. did see some at Bingley 5 rise locks in february on day trip out i was taken on though.
    as for heating bills. 4 years ago these 1 bedroomed bungalows were renovated, among the new /replaced items was a new central heating system. with a radiator in the lounge at last.double glazed windows/pvc doors. loft insulation which was added to last year to keep up with regulations. if i get a visitor (2-3 times a week for approx 2 hours each visit) i dont need the heat on at all. enough heat being generated for us by us.on my own at 70 and with very thin skin it goes on about 5am when i get up to go to the bathroom,.very low. at 8am its turned up a bit more and when i finally get out of bed at 9am turned up to about 25. highest is 30. half an hour later when i am dressed etc i go in kitchen/ turn heating off and it stays off till about 12.-12.30. on till about 2-3pm off another 2 hours then on for evening as it gets colder. my bill this time which i received yesterday was £241.43 meaning im now in debit by £189.13 and my monthly direct debit has gone from £54 to £61 (they wanted £65 but i told them i couldnt afford that.) in january they told me that £54 a month i would probably only owe then about 10-20 quid. now im told at the new amount i will still owe them about 20 quid. and so much for insulation. you couldnt insulate this place more.

  2. Age UK, Age Concern, Help the Aged. All the same now, and all with massive turnovers, ie people getting highly paid at the top, to do charity work, while thousands if not millions of pensioners die of cold and starvation.

    And why arent these charities shouting from the roof tops through the media about all this ?, just like the bedroom tax, just like the poll tax. ?. Its because our elderly people have been marginalized by Margaret Thatcher’s doctrine of me me me, and New Labour under Blair kept the low state pension and means testing in place, further assisting the rot.

    Our elderly people are to be patronized with talk of wrapping up warm, when what is needed in this country are a million people out on the streets of London protesting at Government ignorance of the 12 million pensioners of this country since Thatcher broke the State pensions link with earnings in 1980, over 30 years ago.

    The above ive written is fact. It is also evil. It should be regarded as a crime. But we are such a pretentious nation. We look down on our elderly people, 100 per cent, then make out we care by telling them to wrap up warm, Our thinking, if that is the right word, is as outdated as our Parliament, our system, our leading MP’s.

  3. Why do we only ever hear about insulation as a means for residential consumers making savings.
    I have read that Ground Heat Pumps which collect and accumulate heat from the earth will provide enough energy to provide hot water and central heating for the cost of running a pump which is maybe £200 per annum.
    The cost of converting to this installation is about £20,000 and less if it was planned into new-builds.
    Expensive but it would add value to the property. Who wouldn’t prefer to pay extra for a house with negligible fuel bills, not to mention the carbon footprint appeal.
    Then there’s Air Heat Pumps which have 273 degrees (from absolute zero) of heat at their disposal even on a freezing cold day, to do an almost equally efficient job, this time costing maybe £350 per annum but for an insulation cost of £5000.
    The reason I have opted for neither is because all of this above information is supplied by companies who sell them hence I have a trust issue.
    However if these statistics are true we should all be eagerly buying them instad of spending £10,000 on ugly solar panels that wreck the asthetics of roofs, dazzle drivers on the few occasions the sun shines, and as for producing electricity without the need for sun. Give me a break. The only time they produce significant power is in summer which in case you forgot lasts about 2 weeks in this country.
    What we need is an independent review to reassure us of the facts relating to Ground and Air Pumps and if it stands up to manufacturers claims we should have government incentives for these and New-Builds should have them provided as mandatory as are plumbing and sewers.
    Alternatively massive Ground Heat Pumps could be bored into the earth adjacent to housing estates to supply them even cheaper than on an individual basis.

  4. Typo correction: Air Heat Pump should read “installation cost of £5000” not insulation cost of £5000

  5. The woman responsible for creating poverty among million of elderly people is now dead, but her legacy lives on with a patch work quilt job coming from the charities regarding the 12 million pensioners of this country.

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