It’s dark and cold and we're all glued to the radiators! To help keep gas and electric bills as low as possible (without having to be permanently attached to a hot water bottle) read these top tips on how to winter-proof your home:
1. Master your energy bills
Find out how much energy you typically use by checking your bills - it could be beneficial to fix your energy prices for a year or see if there are cheaper deals altogether. Most suppliers offer combined rates for gas and electricity, and useful comparison and advice sites include www.moneysavingexpert.com and www.uswitch.com. Even if you choose to stay with your current supplier, setting up a direct debit or signing up for paperless billing may save you money each month. It is vital to submit regular meter readings as opposed to relying on estimated bills.
2. Check your Windows
We see a lot of properties with the heating fully on and yet the windows are open – so check them carefully. Old sash and case windows (as fitted in most older tenements) can be very draughty if not properly closed. Check that both upper and lower windows are fully pushed up/down and lock the latch in place which pulls them together to seal the gap.
3. Mind the gaps
Insulate your home - and yourself! Seal any gaps and cracks in your foundation and walls. To prevent chilly air and small animals from coming inside, fill larger openings with expanding foam filler (sold in aerosol cans). Also, check your energy supplier’s deals on cavity wall and loft insulation as some now offer help towards improvement costs; if you’re renting, speak to your landlord or letting agent about these schemes. Minimise draughts by using draft excluders and heavy curtains to retain heat during the colder months. And finally, while it may sound obvious, putting on slippers or an extra jumper can make a world of difference.
4. Love your heating system
It’s worth having your gas boiler or electric storage heater serviced regularly, at least once every 12 months before the cold period starts. Now is a great time to double-check everything is working before you potentially get caught out by a sudden freeze.
5. Check old fireplaces
Older properties often have old fireplaces, which are rarely used but still have an open chimney. Cold air is heavier than warm air meaning all your heating is just going up the chimney. Check it first and then use crunched up brown paper to form a seal in the chimney. Be careful not to light any fires or candles in the fireplaces if you do this though!
6. Bleed your radiators
Radiators only work efficiently when any air has been removed from them, and this is done with the help of a radiator key. If you’re unfamiliar with DIY, ask a qualified tradesman to help you.
7. Keep the heating on…
…especially if you are leaving your flat for a few days during a cold snap. This prevents frozen or burst pipes which can potentially cause structural damage to your home. Make sure you know where and how your mains water supply can be switched off. But if you have a guest room that isn’t being used, turn off any radiators in that room to avoid wasting gas or electricity and seal the door against draughts.
8. Check fires and fire alarms
Have your fireplace serviced if you haven’t used it for a while and check that all fire alarms in your property are working.
9. Emergency kit
Having a small bag of useful tools ready can save time and take the stress out of an emergency. Recommendations for your handy kit are: a torch, batteries, insulation tape, a screwdriver and a radiator key. A list of important phone numbers (for your home insurance company, landlord, emergency plumbers and heating engineers etc.) should also be included.