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10 Tips for keeping your home warm this winter

It’s getting nippy out, and as forecasters predict that temperatures will be dropping below freezing in parts of the country, many people will be experiencing the winter blues. A survey by The Energy Saving Trust (EST) found that 40% of people are avoiding switching on their heating due to fears about energy bills, whilst 33% reported that they can’t make their home as warm as they’d like. To help you, we’ve put together this blog looking at simple ways to keep your home warm and cosy this winter, whilst keeping your energy bills low.

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10 Tips for keeping your home warm this winter

It’s getting nippy out, and as forecasters predict that temperatures will be dropping below freezing in parts of the country; many people will be experiencing the winter blues.

 A survey by The Energy Saving Trust (EST) found that 40% of people are avoiding switching on their heating; due to fears about energy bills. Whilst 33% reported that they can’t make their home as warm as they’d like.

To help you, we’ve put together this list of 10 tips for keeping your home warm this winter; whilst keeping your energy bills low.

1.  Tips for keeping your home warm: Get your boiler serviced

You wouldn’t dream of driving your car without a valid MOT; and you should think of your annual boiler service in the same way.

Not only does your service ensure that your boiler remains Gas Safe, but it’s also vital in avoiding breakdowns.

Issues are most likely to arise in cold weather if your boiler hasn’t been looked after properly. In fact, a survey conducted by the Gas Safe Register; found that the number one cause of boiler breakdowns in winter is having missed a boiler service.

Despite this, the survey also found that a worrying 24% of homeowners admitted to never having had their boiler serviced; or not having it serviced as often as they should.

This is scary, because unsafe gas appliances pose risk of fires, gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning!

So, if you want to keep your family safe; and avoid a breakdown when you need your heating most; it’s a good idea to schedule a boiler service before the cold weather hits.

Remember that only Gas Safe registered engineers can legally fit, fix, and service gas appliances.

Rest assured, that here at The Heating People, all of our engineers are Gas Safe registered for working on gas.

2.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Draught-proof your home

The last thing you want when you’re paying to heat your home; is for all the lovely warm air to be escaping, and the frosty air to be coming in.

But that’s precisely what happens if you don’t draught-proof your home.

Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy in your home. By saving your warm air; you’ll not only feel snug and warm, but you’ll need to use less energy to heat your home.

According to the Energy Saving Trust (EST), draught-proofing around windows and doors could save you around £20 a year.

And if you have an open chimney; draught-proofing your chimney when you’re not using it could save around £15 a year. 

Whilst you can get a professional draught-proofing course for your whole house; there are some DIY quick fixes you can use to minimise your draughts:

  • Use heavy curtains on windows.
  • Buy draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frame and fill the gap between the window and the frame.
  • Use a letterbox flap or brush.
  • Place draught excluders at the bottom of your doors.
  • Buy a chimney draught excluder to use when your fireplace is not in use.
  • Use strip insulation around loft hatches.

3.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Top up your loft and wall insulation

As well as losing heat through gaps around your windows and doors; heat also escapes through your roof and walls through conduction and convection.

According to the EST, a typical house with no insulation will lose 33% of heat through walls; and 25% through the roof. And although the majority of homes have some insulation, many don’t have enough.

Loft and wall insulation works by reducing the amount of heat lost from the fabric of your building; reducing the amount of energy you need to heat your home, and saving you money on your energy bills. The thicker your insulation is, the more effective it will be at stopping the heat from leaving your house.

So what savings can you expect to see? The recommended depth of loft insulation is 270mm.

Topping up your loft insulation from 120mm to 270mm could cost around £240. But the EST says this will save around £12 a year on energy bills.

If you have uninsulated cavity walls; adding cavity wall insulation could save you up to £150 a year off your energy bills.

If you have solid wall insulation; you can save around £260 a year off your energy bills (based on a typical 3-bedroom semi-detached house).

4.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Insulate your pipes

Insulating your water pipes is called ‘lagging’ and by sealing in heat; it saves energy and prevents pipes from freezing and bursting in the winter.

A frozen condensate pipe is one of the most common problems modern heating systems face in the winter months.

The water inside the pipe freezes and the boiler’s inbuilt sensors will therefore prevent the boiler from lighting. This means that you’ll have no heating or hot water, right when you need it most!

To minimise the risk of both freezing and heat loss, you should insulate your pipes. This can be simple to do yourself. You can buy foam insulation tubes online or from a DIY store and slip them over your pipes.

In a typical 3-bed semi-detached house; materials will cost around £20. And you will save around £3 a year on your energy bills; as well as reducing the possibility of expensive repair bills from burst pipes.

5.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Top up your hot water cylinder insulation

If you have a hot water tank, check its insulation. Most hot water cylinders have some insulation; but if your tank has a jacket under 25mm thick, it could benefit from top-up insulation.

Your hot water cylinder stores hot water for your taps and showers. If the tank is poorly insulated, it will lose heat much quicker.

Topping up the insulation means that you’ll use less energy to re-heat the water; which will save you money on your fuel bills.

A hot water cylinder jacket costs around £16. And according to EST topping up your hot water cylinder insulation from 25mm to 80mm could save around £20 a year.

6.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Check your radiators

When the cold weather hits, you’ll want to be sure that your radiators are performing to their full potential. There are several things that you can check to ensure that they’re working in an energy efficient way:

➢   Check for cold spots

A common problem with radiators is that air can get trapped inside them; meaning that they don’t heat up properly. And your boiler will be working much harder to warm up your home.

To test for this, you just need to use your hand to check the temperature of your radiators; from the top to the bottom of each.

Since air rises, it is quite common for the top of a radiator to be cold; and the bottom to be hot.

You might also notice cold patches, or they might just feel cooler than usual. If you spot any of these issues, your radiator needs bleeding to release the trapped air.

This is a relatively straightforward task that you can do yourself, using a radiator key.

➢   Check your radiators are unobstructed

Do you dry clothes by hanging them on your radiators? If so, stop! If you want your radiators to be able to heat your rooms effectively, they need to be unobstructed!

This is because they heat your rooms through convection – despite the misleading name: ‘radiator’!

Radiators actually produce around 80% of their heat through convection, and only 20% through radiation.

They work by heating the cold air above them, and the convection currents transfer the heat around the room.

With this in mind, it’s clear that you don’t want to be obstructing the movement of heat out; of the radiator and into the room.

Radiators are traditionally placed under windows, so you need to be careful not to block the heat with heavy curtains.

Heavy curtains are great for keeping out draughts; but just make sure that they fit your windows correctly, and don’t hang over your radiators.

And, whilst radiator covers might look pretty; covering your radiator up will just interfere with its ability to do its job. 

So, instead of drying your socks on your radiators, invest in a clothes airer instead.

➢   Think about fitting thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)

A woman holding a TRV and a piggy bank.You’ve probably got a room (or rooms!) in your house that don’t get used as much as the others. If so, you’re wasting money on heating these rooms to the same temperature as the rooms you use all the time.

But there is an answer to this…  TRVs!

TRVs or ‘thermostatic radiator valves’ are handy little heating controls that fit on the side of your radiator.

They allow you to control how much heat your radiator emits, and therefore the temperature of your room.

This is great because it means that you can enjoy different heats across different rooms; which is perfect if you don’t see eye to eye with your family members when it comes to warmth!

Not only that, but you can also switch off a radiator completely with a TRV. So, if you’ve got a room that barely gets used; such as a spare bedroom; you can save money by not heating it as often as your other rooms.

TRVs let you keep your home at a comfortable temperature without wasting fuel or heat.

As with most things, prices vary depending on the style of radiator valve you want to buy; and how many you need.

As a guide, with The Heating People; it costs £85 to drain down your current heating system, add chemical corrosion inhibitor, and then £25 per valve installed.

7.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Consider a power flush

If your radiators still have cold spots or feel cooler than usual; and bleeding them hasn’t worked, your heating system might need a power flush.

To keep us warm, our heating systems need to be clean. Over time, the water in your pipes, boiler and radiators deposits unwanted by-products like rust.

This rust (plus other dirt and debris) becomes an unpleasant, muddy substance, known as ‘sludge’.

This sludge plays havoc with the efficiency of your heating system, causing corrosion and blockages. This means that your heating system can’t perform like it used to.

Not only can this affect the performance of your radiators. It can also damage individual parts of your heating system; leading to breakdowns. And can eventually lead to the need for a full boiler replacement in the most severe cases.

A power flush is a cleansing process which cleans your entire central heating system; removing the sludge, which would otherwise cause damage and reduce efficiency. 

8.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Check your room thermostats

Your room thermostat regulates and maintains your desired temperature throughout your home.

If it goes on the blink, it can cause your room to be too hot or too cold. If it blows, it can’t send a signal to the valve which allows the radiators to warm up; and you’ll feel the chill. 

To test whether your thermostat is working, with the heating set to ‘on’ at the timer; turn the boiler thermostat to minimum and see if the boiler switches off.

If not, turn off the boiler’s time clock and check again. If the boiler fails to respond to the thermostat, it may not be working.

9.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Upgrade your heating controls

A Viessmann boiler and smart controlsHeating controls allow you to keep your home warm and cosy when you need it to be; whilst simultaneously keeping your energy bills as low as possible.

 If you were to just turn your heating up to full blast in the winter, hoping for the best; this would trigger a huge (and unnecessary) energy bill.

There are lots of different types of heating controls to choose from.

But at its simplest, when you set your thermostat to the temperature you want; your boiler will come on when the room temperature falls below this. And will switch off when the desired temperature is reached.

More sophisticated compensation smart controls will adjust the output of the boiler up and down in small increments; to meet the room temperature exactly. These save energy and reduce fuel bills.

According to the Energy Saving Trust (EST); if you live in a typical three-bedroom house without any controls; and then you were to install and correctly use a programmer room thermostat; and thermostatic radiator valves, you could save £75 a year, whilst still being perfectly comfortable.

10.   Tips for keeping your home warm: Invest in a new boiler

An ATAG Economiser Plus.Unfortunately, boilers don’t last forever. If you’ve noticed your boiler is struggling to do what it used to do; or is breaking down regularly; or is not working at all; you might be wondering whether you should try to repair what you have; or whether the time has come for a replacement.

Here a just a few signs that it might be time to consider a replacement:

  • Your boiler is knocking on a bit, and is needing more frequent repairs;
  • Replacement parts are hard to find because of the age of your boiler;
  • Your energy bills have crept up without explanation;
  • You’ve noticed that your heating system isn’t working as it used to;
  • Your boiler or radiators are making funny noises.

Final thoughts…

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful.

You might like our related blog: 6 top tips for buying a new boiler.

For tailored advice on improving your central heating system; contact one of our experts at The Heating People, who will be happy to help.

Useful Links:

Energy Saving Trust article on saving energy at home

Survey conducted by the Gas Safe Register

EST guide to draught-proofing

The Greenage article on draught proofing