Fuel Poverty and Cold Will Kill More Elderly People in the UK This WinterWritten by Duncan under General, Heaters | No Comments
TheWeatherOutlook, one of the UK’s leading independent weather forecasters, has suggested there’s a 45%-49% chance that we’ll have a white Christmas this year with the prospects for yuletide snow better than they have been for years. Even if it’s not a Dickensian blanket on Christmas Day, colder weather will begin to bite bringing an increasing risk of frost and fog to much of the country.
The autumn was almost frost free in southern parts of the country and the first days of winter have generally been very wet, but mild, so the change to colder conditions will come as quite a shock to the system. Colder winters may not be a direct result of global warming, but the one indisputable fact is that almost 37,000 people died during the last cold spell in 2008, up almost 50% on the previous year. The rise in “excess winter mortality” for England and Wales was the biggest for years and the highest total in a decade. Last winter more than 90% of deaths were pensioners, who are among the least able to afford heat but the most vulnerable to cold-related diseases, such as seasonal flu, hypothermia, bronchitis and emphysema.
As fuel bills have soared the number of households in “fuel poverty” (defined as having to spend 10% or more of your income on power and heat) has risen five-fold to 6.6 million this year. Age Concern, the charity for the elderly, has warned that unless heating is made more affordable, further large-scale deaths will occur this winter. Portable heaters may be one solution for hard pressed pensioners rather than running the central heating or the electric fire. Fan heaters are effective and generate instant heat but they do run from the mains and could add to an already growing electricity bill.
The humble paraffin heater may be the best option for keeping the winter chill away. They are relatively economical to use, are totally portable with no electrical wires, pipes or flue and can be moved from room to room as required. Modern units can be surprisingly stylish and will give out 2.3 Kw of heat. Some models incorporate safety air sensors that monitor levels of CO2 and anti-topple switch-off mechanisms for added peace of mind for the elderly in particular.
Having survived what promises to be the coldest winter on record, it may seem perverse, but it appears there is an equally good chance that next year will also be the hottest year recorded for the world! According to new forecasts from the Met Office’s climate prediction and research branch, the Hadley Centre, at least half of the years up to 2019 will be hotter than the hottest year so far which was 1998. So the key domestic accessories in future are likely to be a weather station, portable heaters of some sort and a large ceiling fan!