British households are expected to start switching on their boilers imminently, with next month dubbed ‘SNOWvember’ – the latest date for ‘boiler switch on’ in over three years.
Data reveals that in the next two weeks, more than 80,000 households across the country are expected to need help getting their heating and hot water back up and running, as they reach for the thermostat for the first time in months.
More than 1.2 billion boilers are fixed every winter by British Gas engineers, and a spike in demand for engineer callouts comes with the first prolonged snap of cold weather.
After a balmy end to October, wintry conditions are on the return with much colder days, chilly nights and frost and snow in some places expected in some places in the month ahead.
Tips for households - with energy efficiency in mind
A recent OnePoll survey found more than six in 10 (61 per cent) have taken precautions to make their homes more efficient before the cold sets in.
Bleeding radiators (44 per cent), checking draught-proofing (39 per cent) and getting boilers serviced (38 per cent) are the leading measures people have taken to be more energy efficient and winter-ready.
Sunny Solanki, a British Gas service and repair engineer, said: “An unseasonably warm few weeks has meant that people will be switching their boilers on much later than in previous years.
“But it does mean that even more of us are likely to be unaware of any problems that have developed in the system since it was last put to work.
“If you discover any issues you don’t know how to fix, it’s safest and most sensible to call a qualified engineer. When I visit customers, I also share advice for things you can do yourself to try and keep everything working as effectively and as possible.
“We know many people are planning to make some changes around the house this year, with energy efficiency in mind. Here are my top tips.”
Sunny Solanki’s top tips to make the home winter-ready
- 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.
- Shut out the cold: You wouldn’t leave the back door open when the heating’s on, but warm air could still be escaping without you realising – and cold air could be sneaking in. 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- Wrap your pipes up warm: We often come across frozen condensate pipes – which can burst or crack when the water inside turns to ice. 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 – ensuring the pipes don’t lose heat can save an average of £15 on your bills, and prevent any costly repairs.
- 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). It'll reflect the heat back into your rooms, meaning they warm up faster and retain more heat. 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.
- Check your thermostat settings: It’s easy to turn the thermostat all the way up when it's freezing cold but what temperature should your house be? 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. That way you won't waste excess energy from leaving the heating on too high, for too long.
- Be energy smart: Making the most of tech like smart thermostats means you can control your heating on the go and avoid wasting money on energy you’re not using. For example, 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. Our Hive Active Heating customers save around £311 on average per year.
- 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 up to £1,500 are available from the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer). Most suppliers also offer assistance funds to provide grants towards energy costs.
Further tips on winter proofing your home available here.