Keeping a home at 26 degrees in summer costs one hundred euros a month

A person controls the temperature of the air conditioning with the remote control. / Oscar Chamorro

Two million households suffering energy poverty due to heat must choose between thermal comfort and food or healthcare

Alvaro Soto

Frozen in winter and charred in summer. When the good weather arrives, the two million households that suffer from energy poverty in Spain tremble, but with fear. Keeping their home at the right temperature is an added difficulty to their economic problems, and if they can do it, it is at the cost of choosing between turning on the air conditioning or buying a variety of foods. 14% of Spaniards cannot get their house to be at 26 degrees during heat waves, according to data from the INE Living Conditions Survey and the Foessa Foundation, the Caritas entity specialized in knowing the social situation from the country.

On many occasions, these are homes without air conditioning or without fans, but having these cooling devices does not guarantee getting rid of the heatwave. To simply turn them on, no frills, Foessa estimates that a family of four will spend 25 euros a week, about 100 a month. The amount is less than what is required in winter, when 40 euros per week -160 per month- are needed for the house to be at 21 degrees, but it represents a huge outlay in these homes. “Families are at a crossroads: prioritizing air conditioning over food, drugs or therapeutic assistance such as not taking children to the dentist. In any case, these are serious impediments to developing a healthy life”, explains Raúl Flores, coordinator of Studies at Cáritas Spain and technical secretary of Foessa.

"The risk of poverty increases with high temperatures, high electricity prices and the loss of purchasing power in many households that, even though they have air conditioners, fear the bill that may come if they use them," confirms Yolanda Picazo, coordinator of the Energy area of ​​the Association of Environmental Sciences, which studies, among other phenomena, energy poverty. This entity advises families with more difficulties to use fans, which consume much less electricity than air conditioning. "A fan spends like a light bulb, improves the feeling of comfort and lowers the thermal sensation of a room between two and three degrees," emphasizes Picazo.

bad insulation

All factors contribute to the fact that it is the families with the least resources that suffer the most from heat waves. Their houses, usually older, are poorly insulated and the electrical appliances are also of poorer quality. «We find ourselves with the paradox that people with less purchasing power pay more electricity bills in summer than others with more resources. And that is explained by the fact that their air conditioners or refrigerators have C or D labels, while in the richest houses they have A and A+, "says Raúl Flores.

In addition, those who live in cities, and especially in areas with higher population density, suffer from another aggravation: they are on 'heat islands', territories in which pollution, asphalt or air conditioning emissions raise the temperature a few degrees higher.

Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace already consider the fight against global warming as important as mitigating its effects among the most needy population. "We have no choice but to do it because extreme weather events are already here," says Pedro Zorrilla, spokesman for Climate Change of this NGO, with resignation.

In Spain, 1.3 million families are adhered to the social bonus. But the number of beneficiaries should be doubled to reach all those who suffer from energy poverty because among those who now receive this benefit are some older people whose economic situation, without being buoyant, is not dramatic either. “All the measures that have been put in place help, but they are band-aids for very large wounds. We have to continue working to assert the right to decent housing and the provision of the basic needs of families, "concludes Flores.

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