This article explains everything you need to know about heating your home. You’ll learn why it’s important to keep warm, how to use your heating effectively and efficiently and what grants may be available to keep costs down.
If you’re having difficulty keeping your home warm and cosy, speak to our team about your options.
Why is it important to keep warm?
As cold weather sets in, health can often begin to suffer, and the temperature inside your home can have a significant impact.
- 18-24°C: These indoor temperatures are suitable for most people. Comfort thresholds vary, but the World Health Organization recommends keeping rooms between 18-21°C.
- Below 16°C: Resistance to respiratory infections diminishes. People become more susceptible to illnesses like the flu, pneumonia, COPD and asthma.
- Below 12°C: Blood starts to thicken and blood pressure rises. People are at greater risk of stroke, heart attack and falls.
- Below 9°C: Core temperature falls when subjected to the cold for prolonged periods of time. People may experience hypothermia.
Young children, the elderly and those in ill-health are particularly susceptible to these effects.
A cold home can also have indirect effects on health. Condensation often forms in cold homes and can cause mould growth if not properly treated. Damp and mould put people at risk of respiratory problems, allergies and asthma. It can also weaken the immune system.
Additionally, cold homes brought about by financial hardship put people at further risk of malnutrition, social isolation and mental ill health. The choice to heat-or-eat may mean people go without or purchase cheap, ready-made meals with poor nutritional value. Social outings may be restricted to balance the budget and households may be reluctant to invite guests into a cold home. These decisions are stressful and can lead to anxiety and depression.
When it’s cold outside, you should be able to seek refuge in a warm, cosy home. There are two parts to this equation: heating your home adequately and retaining that heat.
Make your money for fuel go further by maintaining your heating system, using your heating controls, finding cheaper deals and accessing utility bill discounts.
- Bleed your radiators. Trapped air reduces the efficiency of your heating system because the air pockets prevent the warm water from filling the top part of your radiator. Letting the air escape means you’ll need less energy for the desired heat output.
- Flush your radiators. Over time, sludge can build up and settle in radiators. If your radiators aren’t as warm as they used to be and have noticeable cold spots in the middle and bottom, consult a heating engineer to flush the system. They may also add a corrosion inhibitor to help prevent future sludge build-up. For extra protection, you may want to consider have a magnetic filter installed.
- Service your boiler regularly. Having a Gas Safe registered engineer give your boiler a once-over every year helps keep it performing at its best. By catching small problems before they become big (and expensive) pains, a service may also help prolong the life of the boiler. You’ll also have peace of mind that it’s safe to use.
- Control the heat. Thermostats, timers, programmers, Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) – these are just a handful of devices the can help you get the most out of your heating system. For every 1°C the thermostat is turned down, you could save £80 a year on fuel. If you have storage heaters, you’ll have input/output switches to regulate the amount of heat that’s stored overnight and how it’s dissipated throughout the day.
- Use cheap fuels. Mains gas is, on average, 3-4 times cheaper than electricity. If you have a gas boiler, use it instead of relying on room heaters to keep you warm.
- Compare energy tariffs. Price comparisons are a great way to save £100s with a click of a button. For simple switches, 5 minutes is all you need. If you have more complex needs (e.g., you have a smart meter, a three-rate tariff or low income with a chance of getting the Warm Home Discount), our team of Energy Advisors can walk you through the steps using an Ofgem-accredited switching site. Wondering what an energy term means? We’ve got you covered.
- Get discounts. Some of these discounts are automatic – the Winter Fuel Payment is paid to people of pensionable age; the Cold Weather Payment goes to people receiving certain means-tested benefits; and the Warm Home Discount is issued to those with Guaranteed Pension Credit (so long as their electricity supplier subscribes to the scheme). People on a low income not getting Guaranteed Pension Credit may also be eligible for the £140 Warm Home Discount but eligibility varies, there’s a yearly application and some suppliers only offer a small window of opportunity to submit the form. Navigate this maze by consulting our Energy Advisors.
- Upgrade your heating system. Not all boilers are created equal. New technology in the form of condensing gas boilers has seen efficiencies rise over the last 20 years. Storage heaters have also recently been given a makeover with smart controls and a more insulated core to reduce heat waste. And renewables, like heat pumps and solar panels, are gaining popularity, especially as prices come down. Government schemes, like the Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) can potentially help fund these upgrades, depending on your situation. Find a qualified contractor for these jobs (and others!).
- Don’t be left without heating or hot water. If your appliance is faulty or broken and you can’t afford to repair or replace it, apply for grants or loans from local and national programs and charities. Our Energy Advisors can help you find the best options for your circumstances.
Keep the heat
Heat is a funny thing and can quickly disappear if you don’t trap it. Reduce heat loss and improve your home’s energy efficiency by sealing its thermal envelope.
- Check your insulation. An uninsulated home will lose about 35% of heat through the walls (twice this if the wall is solid!), 25% through the roof and 10% through the windows. Keep the heat where it’s intended to be by topping up loft insulation (270 mm or 10.5 inches is the current recommended depth) and installing cavity or solid wall insulation. For a typical property, it will only take a few years to repay the investment. (Your Energy Performance Certificate may provide more insight.) Government schemes may help fund the costs of these upgrades. Investing in double-glazed windows will also help maintain the temperature in your home. Just check that any planned work complies with building regulations before starting the project.
- Draught proof. It’s a cheap and effective way to reduce your energy bills and make your home more comfortable to live in. Often these jobs are Do-It-Yourself and can range from adding self-adhesive foam strips to window/door frames to filling gaps between floorboards. Figure out where warm air is seeping out and block its path. But be sure not to block intentional ventilation in the process, such as airbricks, extractor fans or trickle vents in windows. If you rent, always check with your landlord before doing any work.
- Keep condensation at bay. Many homes in the UK are affected by damp conditions, the most common of which is condensation. This happens when moisture in the area touches a cold surface. Following a few simple principles (i.e., HIVE) could transform your place from a cold, damp property into a warm and cosy home.
- Heating – try to keep the temperature in your home above 15°C. A comfortable temperature is generally 18-21°C.
- Insulation – insulated walls are warmer, so moisture is less likely to condense on them.
- Ventilation – extractor fans, open windows and uncluttered furnishings will allow moisture-laden air to escape.
- Excess moisture – reduce how much moisture gets into the air in the first place by keeping lids on pots and pans, drying clothes outside when possible and restrict where moisture travels in bathrooms/kitchens by closing doors and using adequate ventilation when these areas are in use.
No one wants a cold home. You have the potential to transform someone’s life. Consider the following options:
- Subscribe to the Met Office weather alerts and, if a cold snap is predicted, check in on vulnerable friends, family and neighbours.
- Learn about fuel poverty and raise awareness in your social networks on Fuel Poverty Awareness Day
- Donate your Winter Fuel Payment if you don’t need it to those who are struggling.
- If you’re concerned about someone in a no-heat situation, call us on 0800 804 8601.