Public Health England has published its new Cold Weather Plan for England 2014, with a key change being a reduction in the recommended temperature for home and office heating from 21°C to 18°C. The change has been made following a review of new scientific evidence which shows that heating homes to the lower temperature will have no negative health impacts for most people while saving energy and reducing heating bills.

The change in recommended heating temperature is one of only a small number of changes made from last winter’s Cold Weather Plan. Advice on flu vaccinations has been updated to follow the latest guidance and a new 4-page booklet on key actions people and organisations can take to reduce the harm caused by cold weather has been published.

However, it is the change to recommended heating temperatures which is the most obvious alteration to previous guidance. A comprehensive literature review has been published alongside the new Plan to show how the new figure has been arrived at. The previous figure was based on outdated evidence over 30 years old and new evidence shows that a temperature of 18°C poses “minimal risk” to the health of “a sedentary person wearing suitable clothing”. 18°C is described in the Plan as a “broad minimum temperature threshold” for homes, and additional flexibility has been written into the plan to allow for higher temperatures to be recommended for vulnerable people and those with existing health issues.

In full, the new guidelines are:

Daytime recommendations

  • The 18°C (65°F) threshold is particularly important for people over 65 years old or with pre-existing medical conditions. Having temperatures slightly above this threshold may be beneficial for health.
  • The 18°C (65°F) threshold also applies to healthy people aged 1-64*. If they are wearing appropriate clothing and are active, they may wish to heat their homes to slightly less than the 18°C (65°F) threshold.

Nighttime recommendations

  • Maintaining the 18°C (65°F) threshold overnight may be beneficial to protect the health of those over 65 years old or with pre-existing medical conditions. They should continue to use sufficient bedding, clothing and thermal blankets or heating aids as appropriate.
  • Overnight, the 18°C (65°F) threshold may be less important for healthy people aged 1-64* if they have sufficient bedding, clothing and thermal blankets or heating aids as appropriate.

*This does not negate existing advice that rooms where infants sleep should be heated to between 16°C and 20°C (61°F to 68°F) to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The new plan is expected to in some cases result in better health outcomes, as reducing recommended temperatures will have an effect on financial hardship and associated negative health impacts.

As well as the new guidelines on home and office temperatures, the Plan retains its previous format of providing guidance on what individuals, community groups and healthcare providers should do to help prevent cold-weather-related harm.

You can read the Cold Weather Plan and all associated documents, including the literature review behind the revised guidelines, on the Government website. You can also download the Plan from our own Fuel and Energy Resources page.

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