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Trade body warns that health should be a priority over heating bills

Fuel poverty is a major problem for many people across the UK - and it's a particular issue in rural parts of the country where older people are living in poorly insulated homes. 

Not only do these people suffer more in cold temperatures - but they are also more at risk from the health consequences of living in a cold home, such as breathing and heart complications.

That's according to OFTEC, the trade body for the oil heating industry.

Last year saw the highest number of people dying from the cold in 15 years. Spokesman Malcolm Farrow said that despite the costs associated with heating, a warm home needs to be the priority - as it can have dire results.

"Many homeowners will be tempted to turn down their heating to save money but this can have serious health implications as the 43,900 winter deaths in 2013/14 demonstrates," he said.

OFTEC has provided advice on how to save money on your heating, without turning down the thermostat. Their tips include:

  • Keeping the temperature of the main room at least 21 degrees centigrade.
  • Checking heating timers and turning of radiators in rooms that are not in use.
  • Ensuring nothing is blocking radiators - such as furniture.
  • Checking there's enough oil in tanks if the boiler is oil-fired.

In addition, OFTEC is reminding households that it's important to have the boiler regularly serviced by a registered technician. This will help to ensure everything is working correctly and efficiently. Waiting until there's a problem with the system can be more expensive and a break-down in the middle of winter could leave families in the cold.

Mr Farrow points out that heating oil prices are at their lowest in six years - but adds that there are too many people who are struggling with their fuel costs, "particulary those on LPG and electricity who still face very high energy bills".

OFTEC also recommends householders check to make sure they have adequate loft and wall insulation. "By investing in better insulation to your loft and walls, and making other improvements such as double glazing, you can save a lot of money as well as having a warmer, more comfortable home," the trade body's website explains.