Why energy efficiency is the solution to cold homes

An older man sitting by a windowOn the third day of Cold Homes Week our guest blogger Richard Twinn, Policy Adviser at the UK Green Building Council, talks about why energy efficient homes are so important in the cold homes crisis.


John, 72, from Hartlepool, lives alone in an end of terrace, four-bedroomed house which was built in the 1860s. The house has solid walls but no insulation. John owns the house and has lived in it for 28 years. He tried several times to access the Green Deal but found it too expensive.

‘I applied for the Green Deal through a firm in Stockton that was fitting houses in Hartlepool with solid wall insulation. I thought it’d make a great difference because this house in the winter is freezing. A guy came along, measured up, went away, and I didn’t hear anything for ages.

Finally I had a message from someone else saying that the firm had gone bust. So I looked around, my gas company only wanted to do cavity walls, so it was a couple of years later when a woman down the street had her solid walls done. I asked her who was doing it and I went down to see them, filled in some forms, then a guy came along to measure up and it was the same guy from the previous company!

After that I didn’t hear anything for a year and a half. The thing is, I would’ve had to pay for it all myself anyway and they said I might get a small rebate or something. I would have expected to have paid between £10,000 and £12,000 which I simply don’t have…

Last year I had shingles and was confined to the house for nine months. I had the heating on a lot to stay comfortable, which means my bills are now horrendous – I’m paying £240 a month. I’ve got various things wrong with me – Type 2 diabetes, arthritis in my spine and ribs, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea… You know I’m 72 and I’m not getting any younger.’


Energy efficiency is often touted as the win-win-win for the energy trilemma – keeping the lights on, cutting carbon emissions and reducing energy bills.

Reducing the amount of energy we waste is a cheaper way to meet increasing national energy demand than building new generation capacity. Installing energy efficiency measures also provides a longer term solution to rising energy bills than simply switching energy suppliers.

While in the long term, meeting our national commitments from the Paris Climate Change Agreement will mean that, by 2050, our homes will need to be so efficient that most of the energy used in them can be generated by local renewables like solar and biomass.


But none of this can be achieved without a national energy efficiency programme that can make retrofit accessible to every household. Trusted local installers working closely with local authorities need to have the skills and expertise to install multiple heating and insulation measures which are appropriate to individual properties.

And various grants and loans must be available which are relevant to the circumstances of the householder. Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all policy to achieve this – we need ambitious long term targets and a comprehensive framework of policies to achieve them.

That is the best way to build a genuine market and make energy efficiency improvements as ubiquitous as installing double glazing or buying a new kitchen.

Find out more about Age UK’s campaign for warm homes and get involved in Cold Homes Week by visiting the Age UK website.

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