Energy crisis: shiver not at colder houses and warmer clothes

Cold shower anyone? The hot water has been turned off in some German leisure centers. In Spain, energy saving measures are starting to bite. Offices, bars and shops are banned from adjusting the thermostat below 27C in summer or above 19C in winter.

Temperature restrictions reflect the severity of Europe’s energy shortage. Soaring prices are curbing consumption too. The IMF this week argued that most people need to adjust to the energy shock by reducing usage. Governments should only protect the poorest households.

Spain has set a benchmark for other nations with its 19C winter maximum. The average heated temperature of EU homes is over 22C, according to the International Energy Agency. It notes that a 1C cooler temperature typically knocks 7 percent off energy bills.

Shiver not. People used to live in much colder houses. In the four decades from 1970, the average internal temperature of a UK home rose by nearly half from 12C to 17.6C.

That partially reflects a more uniform distribution of heat. The spread of central heating — from just a quarter of UK homes in 1970 to over 90 per cent in 2012 — means that more rooms are kept warm.

Attitudes to cooler rooms vary. Women prefer temperatures a few degrees higher than men, researchers say. Warm homes are also recommended for the elderly and sick. But there is limited evidence to support the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a minimum temperature of 18C.

Small changes add up. Delay turning on the heating by a month to November. That should be able to save your household around 670 kWh per year, or 5.5 percent of space heating energy. You can save even more by wearing thick jumpers and persuading cohabitants to do the same. Then you can turn down the temperature by as much as 2C.

Politicians risk appearing to be patronizing or insensitive if they dish out advice on saving energy. But high energy prices will force people to wrap up. Lex reckons battery heated jackets could be in demand. They heat the person, not the home.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Please tell us what you think about temperature restrictions in public places and at home in the comments section below.

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