Fuel poverty

Find out more about the causes of fuel poverty and what you can do if you are affected by fuel poverty.

What is fuel poverty?

Fuel poverty happens when a household cannot afford to heat their home to an adequate level. With the knock on effect that households are often forced to choose between heating and other household essentials.

If you are spending more than 10% of your household income on heating your home then you will be classed as being in fuel poverty. If a you are spending more than 20% of your household income on heating your home then you will be classed as being in extreme fuel poverty.

Heating the home to a reasonable level means that the temperature of the home has to be between 21'C, or 23 'C for vulnerable households, in living rooms and 18'C in the other rooms.

Who is affected by fuel poverty?

Anyone can be affected by fuel poverty, the common groups at risk include: 

  • Single parent households.
  • Older person households.
  • Children and young people.
  • Families who are unemployed or on low income.

Living in fuel poverty can impact on your mental and physical health, affecting your ability to cook, heat water or keep warm. Illnesses such as asthma, respiratory and heart conditions can be made worse by living in cold and damp homes.   

The causes of fuel poverty

The following factors are the main causes of fuel poverty.

  • Low disposable income.
  • High fuel costs
  • Poor energy efficiency of the home

How to avoid fuel poverty?

Making a few changes to your home to make it as energy efficient as possible can help reduce your fuel costs, simple things like replacing light bulbs with energy efficient light bulb, draught proofing windows and doors. Our energy efficiency pages have more information and tips on how you can save money.

Look at switching your energy supplier or see if you can move to a cheaper tariff. And if you have a pre-payment meter, check if you can get it removed and pay via direct debit. 

It is also important that you are getting all the help that you are entitled to regarding your income, contact Citizens Advice Scotland for advice on benefits.  

Where to get help

If you are having problems with fuel bills or debt you can get advice from our specialist Shelter Scotland advisers via 0808 800 4444, our advisers are funded by the British Gas Energy Trust and can give you money advice if you are in fuel debt. 

For advice and information on making your home more energy efficient contact Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282, where you can get advice on:

  • saving energy in your home
  • claiming benefits and how to lower your fuel bills
  • staying warm
  • finding contractors to carry out improvements
  • grants to help make your home more energy efficient.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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