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England’s regions are not equally prepared for hot weather

Northern homes are less likely to have fans, air conditioners or decent insulation.

By Michael Goodier

People in Yorkshire and the north-west of England caught up in the heatwave this week are far less likely to be able to cool off using a fan or air conditioner.

Figures from the English Housing Survey show that large swathes of the country are not as prepared for hot weather, even as heatwaves become more severe and common.

The disparities in mechanical cooling equipment currently tend to match regional climates. Homes in London and in the east of England, an area that often sees the highest temperatures in the country, are, unsurprisingly, the most likely to be equipped with a fan or an air conditioner, with 56.1 per cent of households surveyed claiming to have used one to cool down.

That was followed by the south-east, with 52.3 per cent. However, only 40.5 per cent of homes in the north-west and 39.6 per cent in the north-east used fans or air conditioning.

Homes outside the capital and the south-east are not only less likely to have fans and air conditioners, but are also less likely to be able to keep the heat out.

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London and the south-east lead the way when it comes to energy efficiency measures, which help in both winter and summer. These measures, including insulation and double glazing, not only help keep the warmth inside during the winter, reducing energy bills, but also help keep people’s homes cool during heatwaves.

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Some 53 per cent of homes in the capital had an energy efficiency rating of C or above (ratings run from G to A, with A being the highest), as did 50 per cent in the south-east. On the other hand, that was the case for only 40 per cent of homes in Yorkshire and the Humber and 41 per cent in the Midlands.

A 2020 report by the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group – a coalition of trade bodies, consumer groups, think tanks, NGOs and businesses – found that inefficient homes are the main contributor to disparities in fuel poverty across the UK. Investment in energy efficiency measures is also most needed in areas outside of London, the Home Counties and the south-east – a pattern that chimes with the government’s levelling-up strategy.

A separate report by the UK's Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month found that there are currently no credible plans to help most households improve their energy efficiency. It stated that “this is a significant policy gap, in particular for owner-occupiers. Energy efficiency measures are needed both to support the deployment of low-carbon heating systems as well as to help households manage the costs of energy, both in the near term and the future.” 

The report also found that more progress on upgrading energy efficiency measures had happened in Scotland than in England in the past year.

Read more: How will the heatwave impact the NHS?

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