Households urged to prepare for first cold snap

Households are expected to reach for the thermostat for the first time in months this week, as the first major cold snap of the season will see a mass switch on of boilers up and down the country.  

 But as people start turning their heating systems back on, an energy company warns that this typically coincides with a spike in demand for engineer callouts.  

According to British Gas data, 40,000 homes across the country are expected to need help getting their heating and hot water systems back up and running in the coming days.  

To help get the country get ready for the change in weather, the brand is urging households to start preparing now to avoid any issues – and to ensure they are heating their homes efficiently. 

Simple tasks like bleeding radiators, increasing the pressure on your boiler and having it serviced can help to ensure the system is running effectively – especially after little or no use since last winter.  

Sunny Solanki, a British Gas service and repair engineer, said: “We’ve seen a delayed start to autumn, but as the colder weather arrives, more and more homes will now be looking to turn their heating on. 

“As they do, it’s incredibly important to make sure your heating system is running smoothly and able to withstand the winter weather.  

“Not every boiler will give up after taking the summer off, but it’s a good idea to have it serviced to be sure.  

“As well as looking after your boiler, making a few small, additional changes around the home will help ensure your heating and hot water system is working at its best. 

“It’s also important to remember that a system that is in good shape won’t use more energy than it needs.” 

Sunny’s top ten tips to help households heat their homes efficiently and effectively this winter: 

  1.  Bleed your radiators: Air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently. If you notice cold spots at the top of your radiators, switch them off and after they cool, turn a radiator key in the valve at the top to let the air out.   
  2.  TLC for your boiler: Rather than waiting until something goes wrong, regular services can prevent problems from arising at all. There are products out there that mean customers can protect their boiler and have an annual service which is essential for keeping the household going. 
  3.  Shut out the cold: Draught proofing around your windows and doors can save around £60 per year. Self-adhesive foam strips are easy to fit on windows to prevent draughts, while draught excluders are perfect if there’s a gap between your door and the floor. Your keyhole and letterbox can allow cold air into your home. Keyhole covers and letterbox brush strips are cheap to buy, quick and easy to fit and will stop those draughts.  
  4.  Furnish for warmth: Think about where your heat sources are, and make sure your radiators can do their job properly. Putting your sofa in front of a radiator may keep the best spot in the house extra toasty, but it will absorb heat that could be warming the rest of the room.  Curtains and rugs have an important part to play as well, because thick material (the thicker the better) prevents heat from being lost through windows and doors – just don’t forget to open your curtains during the day so that the sun can do some of the work!  
  5.  Turn off radiators in rooms not in use: It’s important not to spend money heating spare rooms or other rooms not in use during the winter, so if you know a room isn’t going to be used, make sure you turn the radiator off and close the door to stop cold air circulating through the rest of the house. When you do need to use the room, just turn it back on ahead of time to heat it up. 
  6.  Wrap your pipes up warm: The best solution is to stop the water inside your pipes from freezing in the first place. Insulating materials are an easy, cost-effective solution, available from most DIY stores – it will ensure the pipes don’t lose heat saving an average of £15 on your bills and preventing any costly repairs.  
  7.  Heat your home, not your walls: Cover a thin sheet of card with tinfoil and place it behind your radiators (if you're feeling particularly crafty you can make it T-shaped so it sits on your radiator brackets). If DIY isn't your thing, you can also buy ready-made foil insulation. Households can save around £25 a year doing this depending on the insulation in their home.  
  8.  Check your thermostat settings: Aim to set your main room thermostat somewhere between 18°C and 21°C and you can save around 10 percent on your heating bills – an average of £115 a year – by turning it down by 1 degree. It's also a good idea to set your thermostat to one temperature and then use a timer to turn it on and off when you need the heating most.  
  9.  Get your heating right for bedtime. Set your heating to start 15 minutes before you wake up and turn off 30 minutes before bed. This can save money and even help you get a better night’s sleep. You can also turn down the heat in any rooms not in use.  
  10.  Be energy smart: Unsurprisingly, winter is peak season for energy usage. Making the most of smart tech like thermostats means you can control your heating on the go and avoid wasting money on energy you’re not using. By having a smart meter installed, you can see how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence, helping you to identify where you can make savings. 
  11.  Get the help you’re entitled to: It’s always worth finding out if you’re eligible for extra assistance with your energy bills, especially before the cold weather sets in. Face-to-face advice, financial support and grants are available, and suppliers also offer assistance funds to provide grants towards energy costs. 

To find out how to winter-proof your home, click here.  

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