TWO advice guides aim to help rural residents keep warm and reduce their fuel bills this winter.
The Energy Efficiency and Affordable Warmth guide aims to help people reduce spending on fuel by using energy more efficiently in their homes.
The guide explains how families can reduce bills by improving insulation, draught proofing and using low energy lightbulbs.
It shows how volunteer 'energy champions' can help pass on tips and point householders towards sources of professional advice.
The guides also explain how eligible households may be able to get help with improvements to their homes.
These include using boilers or loft insulation, or taking advantage of government initiatives such as Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation.
Meanwhile, the Affordable Warmth guide focuses on how communities can help households to stay warm and avoid falling into fuel poverty.
It explains how the most vulnerable households can get help from the Government towards their heating bills.
It includes case studies of work carried out by members of the ACRE's national Network of rural community councils, such as bulk oil buying schemes.
ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: "With winter fast approaching, many families will be thinking about how they can cut their energy bills.
"Our guides are a good place to start, with plenty of advice and ideas."
Evidence shows rural households are twice as likely than their urban counterparts to struggle to afford to heat their homes.
Rural households typically have lower than average incomes and houses that are less energy efficient.
Lack of access to cheaper fuel supplies is also a problem.
Some 36% of homes in rural areas are off the gas grid, so many households rely on fuels such as oil, electric heating, LPG or coal.
Ms Banks said: "Tackling fuel poverty is important because the impact of cold homes on people's health and wellbeing is significant.
"Many households are faced with a 'heat or eat' crisis where they are forced to choose between putting the heating on to get warm or buying food."
Calor corporate affairs manager Holly Sims said the energy company was delighted to be supporting ACRE's Energy Efficiency and Affordable Warmth guides.
The guides were full of useful advice and practical examples to help rural householders keep warm and use energy in the most efficient way."
The guides can be downloaded free from the ACRE website.
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