Fuel poverty and how to manage it

In Northern Ireland, 42% of households were in fuel poverty in 2011, which is one of the highest rates in Western Europe, but for some of us it begs the question – what exactly is fuel poverty? And more importantly if it affects you, how do you manage it?

According to official guidelines, fuel poverty is defined by your living space temperatures, and the factors that influence getting to this temperature. Your living room temperature should be at a minimum of 20oC and other rooms like your bedrooms at 18oC, and if you have to spend more than 10% of your household income to get to this point then you are likely to fall into the fuel poor household bracket. Fuel poverty is typically driven by three key factors – household income, energy costs, and how energy efficient your home is.

Your household income directly impacts how much you can afford to spend on fuel, and for many people affected by inflation which is squeezing disposable income, this is a very real concern.  For help managing this, customers in Northern Ireland can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau, for advice on any additional benefits they could be receiving to help manage this. In addition to this, the Winter Fuel Payment is an annual payment to help older people with their fuel costs.  If you are eligible you can claim back some money to go towards heating your home this winter.

Energy costs are completely outside of your control, so you can manage this by keeping aware of current events which could likely affect the cost of home heating oil and take action when opportunity strikes. When prices are low, as they are now, it’s a great chance to buy as much as possible or as you can afford so that you are stocked up before the prices start to rise again.

Is your home as energy efficient as it could be? Making small, affordable changes can help you save money so that you get more value from your home heating oil spend and some investments like new insulation will benefit you for years. An old, inefficient boiler will also end up costing you money, so if you can afford to replace it you will see the savings from this too.

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