Temperatures could soar to dangerously high levels in some homes insulated under the government's flagship Green Deal scheme, experts have warned. Energy-saving measures designed to save on winter fuel bills and protect the environment could pose a risk to health during summer heatwaves, they add. Homes in densely populated urban areas such as London are most at risk. The government says it is aware of the problem and is taking steps to prevent overheating in Green Deal properties.
Heat can build up during the day and has nowhere to escape at night leading to poor air quality and a greater risk of heat stress for the occupants which, in extreme cases, can kill. It is vital that homes in the UK are better insulated to help meet carbon emission targets and save on winter fuel bills. But the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the "big rush to insulate and make homes airtight", particularly as more extreme weather events, including heatwaves, are being predicted for the UK by meteorologists.
"Overheating is like the little boy at the back of the class waving his hand. It is forgotten about because the other challenges are so big," he told the BBC News website. Very effective measures are being taken to protect against winter temperatures but by doing that they increase the risk of overheating during summer.
Research by Leicester De Montfort University, suggests top floor flats in 1960s tower blocks, and modern detached houses were most at risk, particularly if they were south facing. Heat was likely to have the biggest impact on elderly or infirm people who remained at home all day, the research suggests. The elderly are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating.
Under the Green Deal, householders take out loans to finance improvements such as double-glazing, loft insulation or more efficient boilers. The idea is that the energy savings they make should more than compensate for the repayments. In total it said there had been 38,259 Green Deal assessments, where customers are given initial advice about what energy improvements they might be eligible for. Of those, 241 households have confirmed they would like to proceed with work.
According to research by a group of leading engineering and climate change experts, published last year, "Green Deal measures could create new problems in the future, with inappropriately insulated properties experiencing poor indoor air quality and significant summer overheating. It said the increased likelihood of summer heatwaves could lead to rise in heat-related deaths from 2,000 to 5,000 per year by 2080 "if action was not taken".
The Department for Energy and Climate Change says it has now issued fresh guidance to Green Deal suppliers to help reduce potential risk from installing energy efficiency measures.
He said there were simple measures anyone could take - whether living in a well-insulated home or not - to keep heat levels down, such as keeping windows closed during the day to trap cool air and opening them at night. Fitting shutters to windows and painting exterior walls white - both common sights in Mediterranean countries - would also help, but were unlikely to be widely adopted in the UK due to the relative rarity of heatwaves.
Here is the link to the full BBC report.
10 ways the UK is ill-prepared for a heatwave
- Mark Jenkins
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