'Energy crisis hotspots': The coldest neighbourhoods in Wales revealed

The coldest neighbourhoods are "energy crisis hotspots", where people are living on the lowest incomes and where homes have the lowest energy efficiency ratings, which means they are more expensive to heat.  Credit: Grey Hutton

Households in Conwy, Denbighshire and Cardiff are among the coldest in Wales, according to new thermal images.

The charity Friends of the Earth has carried out research to find the least energy efficient neighbourhoods as people grapple with the cost of living crisis.

These neighbourhoods have been called "energy crisis hotspots", where people are living on the lowest incomes and homes have the lowest energy efficiency ratings, which means they are more expensive to heat – making energy use and bills higher than average.

Friends of the Earth Cymru is now calling for the Welsh Government to urgently introduce an ambitious Warm Homes programme to insulate people's homes.

The top three coldest neighbourhoods have been named as within Old Colwyn and Llanddulas in Conwy, Rhyl North in Denbighshire, and Grangetown North in Cardiff.

Neighbourhoods in Holyhead in the Isle of Anglesey, Caerau in Bridgend, Tonypandy West and Clydach Vale in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and Ravenhill in Swansea are all in the top 10.

Wales has some of the worst insulated homes in Europe, making them expensive to heat as warmth escapes through walls, windows, roofs, and doors.

Friends of the Earth commissioned a photojournalist to visit some of these areas with a thermal imaging camera to capture the stories of those struggling to heat their homes.

It highlights how "people of colour, disabled people, older people, and those living on low incomes" are among those "disproportionately impacted" by the energy crisis.

One image captures just how cold the tips of 78-year-old Audrey's fingers are because she struggles with poor circulation and arthritis. Credit: Grey Hutton

78-year-old Audrey, who lives in Rhyl and has a number of health issues, said that she lives in just one room of her home – her bedroom – because it is the only way she can afford to stay warm.

She is disabled and lives with arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and has recently had a triple heart bypass and hip replacement.

Even when the heater is on, she says the room is unable to heat up properly.

The photojournalist met with people living in poorly insulated, heat-leaking homes that are proving not just difficult to keep warm, but often have damp issues and put health and wellbeing at risk too.

Among those photographed were 48-year-old Thomas, who lives in Rhyl. He describes wearing three pairs of trousers in his home and using hot water bottles and blankets to keep warm because he can't afford to heat it.

Living in supported housing, he is on a prepayment meter, but he says that hasn't turned on his heating because he can't afford to pay the daily standing charge.

Haf Elgar, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: "Many people across Wales, like Thomas and Audrey, are struggling to keep warm in poorly insulated homes, forced into making impossible choices between heating and eating.

48-year-old Thomas says he is “walking around like the Michelin Man" at home as he has to wear so many layers. Credit: Grey Hutton

"We urge Welsh Government to implement its Warm Homes Programme as soon as possible - one that is ambitious enough to keep people warm and safe.

"Please provide financial support for vulnerable households, and insulation to lower people's energy bills. We also need to speed up the move towards an energy system based on renewables and low carbon heating."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Improving the energy efficiency of homes is the most effective way we can support householders to reduce their energy bills and more than 67,000 homes have benefitted from our £394m Warm Homes programme over the last 10 years.

“This winter, we have expanded our advice services and our Fuel Support Scheme, which will provide a £200 payment to an extra 200,000 households.

"We have also provided nearly £4 million to introduce a national fuel voucher and Heat Fund scheme in Wales for households that have to prepay for their fuel.

"The scheme, which began in the Autumn, provides direct financial support to eligible households on prepayment meters and those not connected to the mains gas network who are struggling to prepay for their fuel and are at risk of disconnection.”