Public health news: Climate Change - Energy Efficiency

How can we increase our energy efficiency and reduce wastage?

Public health news: March 2023

In previous issues of Healthier Times, we have talked about how we can eat and travel to stay healthy and to protect our environment. In this issue, we will look at how we can prioritise our health and the planet's health by making our homes more energy efficient. Energy-efficient housing means housing that is well-insulated and well-designed to reduce wastage.

The UK has the least energy-efficient housing stock in Western Europe.

This leaves low-income households particularly vulnerable to high heating costs and, in turn, to living in homes that are too cold. This can have negative impacts on health, with higher risks of strokes, respiratory infections and falls associated with low temperatures. It has been estimated that this costs the NHS up to £2 billion a year in England alone, not counting the costs to social care services.

At the same time, 'leaky' homes contribute to climate change.

Homes are responsible for roughly one fifth of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to their gas heating.

In order to meet our net zero targets, which are essential for the keeping the world safe and hospitable to live in, we need to reduce our heating costs as quickly as possible. We are currently using an additional £1,350 worth of energy per year to heat an EPC E rated home compared to heating an EPC C home. 

There are many things that can be done to improve the efficiency of our homes, from small behavioural measures to significant insulation projects.

For more information about steps you can take relatively easily yourself such as turning down the flow temperature of your boiler, making sure radiators aren't covered, closing curtains when it's dark outside and making draft excluders please see: 50 tips to save money on your energy bills.

If you are a homeowner, you may also be eligible for new ECO4 funding for more substantial insulation works. This is the Government's Main Energy Efficiency Initiative for fuel poor and vulnerable households. Other measures that can be carried out include:

  • Loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • First time central heating system
  • Gas boiler replacement (please note that gas condensing combi boilers cannot be replaced)
  • Renewable heating

For more information, please see: South Tyneside Council: ECO4 or Eco4.

Footnote. References from:

Greenpeace: Government urged to insulate all homes to create jobs tackle climate change and save lives

BBC: How living in a cold home affects your health

Friends of the Earth Policy: Securing warm homes that don't cost the earth