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Cold homes and health

If you’re struggling to pay your heating bills and your home is cold and damp, your health may suffer.


Cold homes can cause high blood pressure and even heart attacks and pneumonia. They can also lead to social isolation, loss of sleep, stress and mental illness.

People with existing health conditions such as circulatory or respiratory problems (e.g. asthma), diabetes, arthritis, depression and anxiety are especially vulnerable to the cold. And the risks are even higher for people with certain disabilities, children and the elderly.

Cold homes can also suffer from damp and mould issues which can make all of this worse.

How cold is too cold?

If you have a central heating system, you may also have a room thermostat to monitor and control the temperature in your home – it sends a signal to the boiler telling it to switch off when the house is warm enough. It’s usually found in a hallway or sitting room.

20-23ºC is a comfortable living-room for most people; other rooms don't need to be so warm.

17-19ºC is fine for active people, but not warm enough for the less mobile.

Below 16ºC is too cold for babies, small children and other vulnerable people.

24-27ºC is too warm and can put babies and young children at risk.

Warm up – tips for cold weather

  1. Set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off just before you go to bed. If it’s very cold, set it to stay on longer, rather than turning the thermostat up.
  2. Close the curtains when it’s getting dark. Tuck them behind the radiator and shut the doors to rooms you use most to keep the heat in.
  3. Stay warm with a hot water bottle or electric blanket – but don’t use both at the same time.
  4. Off mains gas or electricity? Keep a sufficient fuel supply to avoid running out in winter. Consider joining an oil club to save money.
  5. Have regular hot drinks and eat at least one hot meal a day if possible. Eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter.

Condensation, damp and mould

Some damp is caused by condensation. This can lead to mould growth that appears as a cloud of little black dots. Condensation occurs when moist air comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall, window or mirror. It also occurs in places the air is still, like the corners of rooms, behind furniture or inside wardrobes. See our page on damp, condensation and mould.

Cold weather benefits

The Warm Home Discount is a rebate on the household electricity bill (£140 for the winter of 2016-17). A Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 is available if you were born on or before July 5 1952. Cold Weather Payments are made when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of 0°C or below over seven consecutive days.

If you receive any type of benefit or are on a low income, it’s worth calling your supplier to check your eligibility.

Priority Services Register

If you live in the green or blue areas, we can sign you up to your local priority services register if you're over 60 or you rely on electricity for medical or mobility reasons or you have a hearing or visual impairment or a long-term health condition.

Click here for details.

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This information is available as a freely downloadable PDF from this page.

For more domestic energy advice, view all our advice pages.