Greener Research

Energy efficiency and fuel poverty in student homes

NUS and Friends of the Earth recently carried out a pilot survey into the conditions of students' homes during the winter, and what we found out made us decide to carry out a full piece of research into energy efficiency and fuel poverty later this year.

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Last winter, NUS and Friends of the Earth carried out a pilot survey through social media, looking into fuel poverty and energy efficiency in student housing. We invited students to tell us about the conditions in their privately rented homes over the cold season, and how the temperature affected their living situation and their finances.

Some of the key findings from our initial sample of just under 300 students were that 

  • 78% of respondents either agreed or completely agreed that they felt uncomfortably cold at home over the winter
  • Only 36% of respondents thought that their home was adequately insulated
  • 79% either turned the heating off or hesitated to use it because they were worried about their bill
  • 82% have worn more than one layer of clothing to bed, because it was so cold
  • 67% have worn outdoor hats, gloves and scarves in their own home to keep warm

Comments left by students were equally concerning

I often see my breath when sitting in my bedroom and my hands and feet go so cold that they lose sensation

"It was so cold I was trying to type essays in gloves!"

"My house is so cold that cooking oil starts to go opaque and become thicker.According to the back of the bottle, this occurs when stored at less than 7degrees Celsius. I can see my breath in front of my face most of the time,and I have to sleep with both a duvet and a sleeping bag"

NUS' Student Switch Off campaign has been successfully addressing some of these issues in first year halls of residence, and our upcoming Students' Green Fund will seek to make some progress in the private accommodation sector - but this pilot survey clearly shows that there is much ground to cover.

Alongside our pilot survey with Friends of the Earth, a study carried out by Lancaster University Students’ Union, through their lettings agency LUSU Living, it was found that the average cost to students for electricity and gas in private rented accommodation was £527 per student per year, suggesting that many students could be living in fuel poverty. We believe that this is worth investigating properly.

In response to all of this, NUS is happy to announce that we'll be carrying out a full and comprehensive piece of research this autumn/winter in order to more closely identify the problems facing students in privately rented accommodation during the cold season, all across the country.

More details on NUS' work on students experiencing energy-inefficient housing and fuel poverty coming soon.