Irish Examiner view: We need to take care of ourselves and each other as temperatures fall

Government booklet will help us save energy while staying warn and safe — but we should all try to be good neighbours too
Irish Examiner view: We need to take care of ourselves and each other as temperatures fall

We need to stay warm amid the cost-of-living crisis and the surge in energy prices. Stock picture

There’s much to commend in the common sense booklet on how to save energy compiled by Aoife Foley and her team at Queen’s University Belfast, and distributed by Government.

Prof Foley, from Boreenmanna Rd in Cork, is right when she says it is often difficult to calculate the financial benefits of various individual actions — the cost of a washing machine load; turning off the wifi router; watching TV; charging a laptop. 

While consumers are empowered in other areas, such as knowing how many minutes are left on their phone plan, the grasp of tariffs, payments, and standing orders is more tenuous. 

“The kilowatt hour is such an abstract unit,” she said. “It’s completely disjointed, all you see is the money figure.”

Her team’s easy-to-understand graphic unbundles the cost per hour of various services and equipment, which might add up to €25 per day for a family of four. Any saving is helpful, but there is a balance to be achieved between sensible home economies and overcompensating, particularly when the weather takes a turn for the worse. 

Met Éireann has ruled out the prospect of any immediate big freeze and predicts “normal, or slightly below normal” temperatures until Thursday next week. But when the cold snap comes, we must remember this can present challenges especially for older people, children, people with a disability, and those with long-term illness. 

Age Action Ireland warns that the cold can increase the risk of flu and respiratory problems, and can raise blood pressure, which takes longer to drop in older people after being out in the cold, bringing greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

The colder your home, the higher the risk to health. It recommends a temperature of 21˚C for the main living room, with the rest of the house heated to at least 18˚C.

Electricity and gas suppliers will not disconnect supply for non-payment of bills from November to March if you have signed up to their “special services register” and are 66 or over; living alone or with another elderly person; or living with a minor.

But the best protectors of all can be the community. As we have said previously, this is a winter in which we all need to watch out for each other. These are dark and unpredictable times, in which good neighbours must also be good friends.

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