A swathe of freezing air is heading for the UK, with Scotland, northern England, Wales, central England and even London likely to face sub-zero temperatures and snow within a fortnight, according to the latest reports.
After a relatively mild autumn, temperatures are due to take a dramatic downturn, marking the start of what forecasters predict will be the ‘coldest winter in 50 years’.?
Data from British Gas reveals that as people reach for the thermostat for the first time in months, the 2019 ‘Great British boiler switch-on’ is coming. This will be the latest boiler switch on in five years with it traditionally taking place by the second week of October.
But after little to no use since last winter, British Gas data reveals that 105,000 households are expected to need assistance with getting their heating and hot water systems back up and running.
The first cold snap of the winter is traditionally associated with a spike in demand for urgent engineer call-outs. People are being advised to prepare for the weather now, to avoid being caught out when the ‘megafreeze’ arrives.
- Bleeding your radiators: When you haven’t used your heating for a while, air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently.
- If you test your heating and 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.? It’s worth having a rag or a small container to hand to catch any drips.
- Don’t forget that bleeding your radiators may cause the system pressure to drop – you can spot this by checking the pressure gauge on your boiler, and it’s easy to top up if needed.
- Cold spots at the bottom or in the middle of your radiators might mean you’ve got sludge building up – sorting this out is more complicated, and you might need to call an engineers to help flush out your system.
- Shutting out the cold: You wouldn’t leave the back door open when the heating’s on – but warm air could be escaping without you realising. Not only do draughts let warm air out – they let cold air in, too! Draught excluders are available from most DIY stores, and they’re an easy and affordable way to draught-proof your home.?As well as sealing the joins around your doors and windows, don’t overlook extra measures like letterbox brushes, chimney balloons and even keyhole coverings.
- Furnishing 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 – 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!
- TLC for your boiler: In our experience, people often don’t give much thought to their boiler until something goes wrong with it – but regular services can prevent problems from arising at all. British Gas’s Homecare products mean customers can protect their boiler and have an annual service. It’s essential for keeping the household going, so it’s well worth looking after. To find out more, visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/homecare.
- Wrapping your pipes up warm: Frozen condensate pipes is one of the most common problems we come across – and it doesn’t actually require specialist training to fix. The best solution is to stop the water inside your hot water pipes from freezing in the first place – water expands when it turns to ice, which can lead to burst or damaged pipes. Insulating materials are an easy, cost-effective solution, available from most DIY stores – if you keep your water system nice and cosy, it will do the same for you.
- Being energy smart: Unsurprisingly, winter is peak season for energy usage. If you have 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. To find out more about smart meters just visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/smartmeters.
- Installing a carbon monoxide detector: Faulty central heating systems are one of the most common sources of carbon monoxide in the home. You can’t hear it, see it, taste it or smell it, and it kills around 30 people a year – but fortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. As well getting your boiler checked once a year, it’s essential to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.? Available through British Gas or from your local DIY store, the detectors last between five and seven years, so check yours is in date and test it to be certain it’s working.
- Keeping everything ticking over: Like a car that hasn’t started for a while, your boiler can seize up if it’s not turned on for an extended period of time. It’s a good idea to run your central heating for at least an hour a day during the colder months – even if you’re going away – to make sure it keeps running smoothly. Check out the boiler manual to find out how to set the timer.
- Embracing the latest tech:? Using a smart thermostat to control your heating on the go means you can avoid wasting money on energy you’re not using. If you’re stuck at work or delayed on the way home, you can use your smartphone to stop the heating from coming on too early and warming up an empty house. To find out more, visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/hive.
- Getting 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.? ￡140 winter rebates are available through the Warm Home Discount scheme, and face-to-face advice, financial support and grants are available from the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer).?