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Cold snap saps £1.2bn of heat

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The UK’s homes and offices leaked an extra £1.2 billion worth of heat during the last two weeks of cold weather, compared with a normal winter, it has been estimated.

The extra costs were the result of buildings that are already inefficient at keeping in heat struggling to cope as temperatures plunged, consultancy Faith+Gould, part of Atkins engineering group, said.

According to estimates by a team of carbon management and energy engineering experts, the residents of an ‘average poorly insulated three bedroom semi-detached’ house will have spent an extra £37 on heat in the past fortnight.

If all 22 million UK homes had been forced to spend the same as the average house, keeping temperatures at 20ºC inside with average outside temperatures of minus 2ºC, the country would have spent an extra £962 million on heating bills.

Those living in more heat-efficient homes will have spent less, around £23 more than usual, but around 9.2 million UK homes are classified as ‘hard to heat’ and would have performed worse than the average property, the consultants said.

The team calculated a further £284 million could have been lost trying to keep the UK’s 2 million offices warm, even though most of them are in cities where outside temperatures are generally warmer.

Investing in insulation or focusing on efficiency when designing new buildings to prevent heat loss can cut bills rapidly, the company said.

Ellie Horwitch-Smith, energy management expert with Faithful+Gould, said: ‘As outside temperatures fall, the cold truth is that already inefficient buildings perform increasingly badly as heating systems struggle to maintain the indoor temperatures demanded of them. Heat is simply lost at a greater rate if the temperature drops.

‘While the £1.2 billion worth of additional heat lost may be a shocking figure, it is a very conservative estimate.’

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