Issues of fuel poverty and thermal discomfort have been identified in social housing internationally, and have been linked with possible health risks for tenants. Statistically, many of the known factors linking poor thermal performance of a dwelling and increased health risk are over-represented in Australian social housing compared with the general housing sector. The results of a mixed-method study undertaken in social housing properties are offered to better understand the relationship between energy consumption and thermal performance in a temperate climate in New South Wales, Australia. The project design combined household energy ethnographies, home energy audits and longitudinal monitoring of electrical energy, temperature and humidity between March 2017 and September 2019. Many homes were found to operate outside the WHO healthy temperature recommendations for substantial periods during both winter and summer periods, in some cases for over 90% of the period. Ethnographic results highlighted the choice tenants were making between thermal comfort and manageable energy bills. The evidence of winter underheating suggests the need for further research to establish whether health benefits observed in intervention studies internationally can be realised in Australia.
Available for download on Wednesday, June 28, 2023