How new sensor technology can help address Britain’s Fuel Poverty Crisis
To combat fuel poverty and help achieve net-zero, we need to bring forward data-led solutions which can make an impact.
This month many families up and down the country will look at their revised energy bill and wonder exactly how they are going to be able to meet the rising costs of staying warm.
However, the brutal truth is that some of these people will not manage to stay warm. Some of them will fall ill. Some of them will even die. This is simply because they cannot afford to put the heating on.
“Even before recent price hikes, fuel poverty was responsible for over 10,000 excess winter deaths each year in the UK,” Chris Jones from leading home safety company Aico tells The House. “With spiralling costs of energy, food and fuel, we are likely to see even more households struggling to afford to heat their homes.”
Fuel poverty might be a growing problem but it is certainly not a new one. It is a long standing challenge for the UK, particularly for those on low incomes, or who live in poorly insulated or off-grid homes. The latest government figures show that a staggering three million households live in fuel poverty in England alone. That was before recent increases in the price of energy.
Jones believes that the scale of the challenge created by the cost of living crisis means that we now need to be developing different approaches that can help Britain stay warm. “As a nation we need to find new ways to help those who are suffering from fuel poverty,” he explains. “Modern sensor technology is now opening up new routes for landlords to identify those who are in fuel poverty and then to target support more effectively.”
One example of this technology is Aico’s new HomeLINK environmental sensor. These state-of-the-art sensors capture not just the temperature of a home, but also assess indoor air quality, triggering alerts for landlords which allow them to intervene if a household is identified as being in fuel poverty.
Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath believes that such approaches are urgently needed as households struggle to meet rising costs. “The cost of living crisis will plunge many more people into fuel poverty,” she tells The House. “Innovative data-led approaches to tackle fuel poverty are needed to help those who desperately need it.”
Fuel poverty is often a hidden problem. This means that identifying households in need of support can be the first critical step in addressing the issue. Modern sensor technology provides a much more efficient and effective way of doing this than traditional stock condition surveys or tenant outreach programmes.
And as well as helping tenants and residents, sensor data can also deliver a wider set of benefits for large social landlords. This is because capturing and analysing data from individual properties can provide a real time picture of the condition of their stock, helping them to develop evidence led asset management strategies that target improvements where they are most needed.
There is no path to net-zero that does not improve the energy efficiency of existing homes
This will not only support households, but it will also help the nation meet its targets around the net zero transition. In the UK, the nation’s 29 million homes are responsible for 25% of total energy usage and 16% of Greenhouse Gas emissions. Put simply, there is no path to net-zero that does not improve the energy efficiency of existing homes.
This is why the British Standards Institute and BEIS have worked together to recently introduce a new overarching standard for installing energy efficiency measures in domestic retrofits. Ensuring that the right property improvements take place in the right properties is now recognised as key to the net-zero transition. Good quality data must sit at the heart of that.
“All too often fuel poverty and net-zero are seen as separate issues,” Jones explains. “Any housing professional will tell you that they are actually very closely connected. By utilising new technologies we can now have a data-led approach that delivers benefits for both residents and for the environment. For that to happen, it is essential that housing associations and local authority landlords have a detailed picture of how their stock is performing when it comes to energy efficiency.”
This challenge is likely to grow as the nation begins an ambitious programme to retrofit existing homes to make them more energy efficient. Given that 80% of the houses that will be around in 2050 already exist, this is essential if we are the meet the 2050 net zero target.
Simply increasing insulation is not always the answer – stopping draughts and airflow can lead to other issues for tenants such as an increase in condensation and mould. That is why approaches need to be tailored to suit individual tenants and buildings. This is impossible to achieve at scale without accurate data.
That data is precisely what Aico’s new sensors have been developed to capture and analyse. It can help identify the improvements that are most effective and support early interventions that deliver warmer homes for residents, cost savings for landlords, and environmental benefits for the nation as a whole.
For more information about Aico’s HomeLINK technology please visit www.aico.co.uk/smart-home/homelink
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