As the frequency and severity of heatwaves increases, vulnerable households are foregoing airconditioning due to rising electricity costs, according to new research out of RMIT.
The university’s Heatwaves, Homes & Health research project interviewed 36 households with older residents or infants in Melbourne, Cairns and Dubbo over 12 months, finding that many were not switching on airconditioners during hot weather, and concern over cost was the most common reason.
Many of those surveyed also lived in housing with poor thermal performance, meaning it was more difficult to maintain a suitable temperature. Half were renters and 70 per cent were on low incomes.
Elderly people were most likely to be self-rationing, and were also underestimating their vulnerability to extreme heat, increasing the risk of adverse outcomes. Younger families were more likely to continue using airconditioning, but were foregoing buying things such as groceries or school books to pay for their high bills.
Lead researcher Dr Larissa Nicholls said four out of five households now had airconditioning, which was a major shift from 30 years ago when fans, cool water and reducing activity were key strategies.
Heatwaves, Homes & Health is available from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research:
SOURCE: Cameron Jewell (2017) Vulnerable households prefer to switch off than pay up. The Fifth Estate, 28 November 2017.
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