Conceptually, many energy poverty studies to date have been narrowly focused on inadequate indoor heating, paying little attention to other domestic energy services. Yet there are indications that a growing number of households in Europe are struggling to achieve adequate levels of indoor cooling, with adverse consequences for their health, well-being and productivity. This situation is exacerbated by changing global weather patterns, with many countries facing increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme heatwaves. There is limited understanding of the ways in which households respond to extreme heat, and consequently how this might create greater demand for indoor space cooling and air conditioning, and the consequences for increased stress on power grids and conflicts with carbon reduction goals. Using custom-built survey data collected from 2337 households in Gdańsk (Poland), Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary)and Skopje (North Macedonia), along with in-depth qualitative fieldwork with 55 households in the same cities, this paper presents novel evidence on the issue of summertime energy poverty and space cooling difficulties. We identify the driving forces of household vulnerability to excessive indoor heat, in terms of risk of exposure, adaptive capacity, and sensitivity, and explore the implications for addressing energy poverty.