Temperatures could soar to dangerously high levels in some homes insulated under the government’s flagship Green Deal scheme, experts have warned. “Particularly the elderly are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating.”
Energy-saving measures designed to save on winter fuel bills and protect the environment could pose a risk to health during summer heatwaves, they add.
The government says it is aware of the problem and is taking steps to prevent overheating in Green Deal properties.
Homes in densely populated urban areas such as London are most at risk.
Heat can build up during the day and has nowhere to escape at night leading to poor air quality and a greater risk of heat stress for the occupants which, in extreme cases, can kill.
Prof Chris Goodier, of Loughborough University’s department of civil and building engineering, said it was vital that homes in the UK better insulated to help meet carbon emission targets and save on winter fuel bills.
But he said the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the “big rush to insulate and make homes airtight”, particularly as more extreme weather events, including heatwaves, are being predicted for the UK by meteorologists.
“Overheating is like the little boy at the back of the class waving his hand. It is forgotten about because the other challenges are so big,” he told the BBC News website.
Research by Professor Goodier and Prof Li Shao, of Leicester De Montfort University, suggests top floor flats in 1960s tower blocks, and modern detached houses were most at risk, particularly if they were south facing.
Heat was likely to have the biggest impact on elderly or infirm people who remained at home all day, the research suggests.
“If you are in the wrong type of house, facing the wrong way, in the wrong street and you don’t deal with heat in the right way, it is a problem,” said Prof Goodier.
“Particularly for the elderly. They are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating.”