The last thing you want is all of the heat from your hard-working radiators escaping through a poorly insulated roof – you can lose as much of a quarter of your heat this way. In this case, you have to spend money to save money, but getting your loft properly insulated and investing in cavity wall insulation will be worthwhile when it comes to your winter heating bills.
Avoid it by having your boiler checked regularly. Nothing would ruin Christmas like a broken-down boiler, but make sure it’s serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You should always keep your boiler ticking over at a low heat, especially if you go away for a weekend during winter, to avoid pipes freezing and bursting, and if the central heating is not on, the pressure should be at one bar. Familiarise yourself with where your stopcock is, so if the worst does happen, you know how to limit the damage.
Condensation can pose a lot of problems – we are now in what is termed ‘condensation season’, when the temperatures have dropped and steamy windows are a common sight in households nationwide. Common causes of unwanted humidity are showering, cooking, and drying clothes, and too much condensation can eventually lead to stained curtains and decaying window frames. To reduce the problem, make sure your extractor fans are up to the job in problem areas such as the kitchen and bathroom, invest in a dehumidifier which will draw excess moisture from the air, and you can also consider updating the insulation inside and out to improve the thermal dynamics of your property.
Bleeding your radiators might seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually simpler (and less painful) than it sounds. Check to see if your radiator needs bleeding – a sure sign is if they’re hot at the bottom but cold at the top – and then all you need is your radiator key (or a flat-headed screwdriver) and some towels. Remember to turn off your central heating first, then find the valve which is usually on the top of one side of the radiator. Turn the key anti-clockwise until you hear the hissing of air, and then quickly turn it back as soon as the air stops – or if you’re too slow, until water emerges. Don’t worry, that’s what the towel is for.
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re sitting snug with a cup of tea and your favourite soap and then feeling that insidious draught around your feet. Before the really icy weather starts, check your home for signs of damage around doors, windows and outside woodwork, and don’t put off minor repairs – you’ll thank yourself later. You can also upgrade your curtains to a heavier material for more protection, not to mention the vast array of stylish draught excluders now available.
PROTECT YOUR PIPES
A frozen and burst pipe is everyone’s idea of a winter nightmare, but it can easily be avoided. Take the time to check your pipes for any cracks and holes, which could lead to water damage. If temperatures drop too low and your pipes aren’t properly insulated, the water inside can freeze, expand, and will burst the pipe. Pipe insulation or lagging is available in most homeware stores, and it’s easy to wrap around pipes to keep temperatures above freezing.
Tackle some of those little jobs that don’t seem important now so they don’t become serious later. Scan your roof for any loose or missing tiles and get them fixed sooner rather than later to avoid any expensive leaks, especially in older properties. Clean out your gutters, removing any debris or dead leaves to prevent blockages. Get your waterproofs out and do this job when it’s raining, so you can make sure the water is flowing through the gutters and downpipes as it should be. Finally, remove any items from the garden that might be damaged or blow away and damage property in bad weather, such as hanging baskets, garden furniture, and ornaments.
Sometimes the worst can still happen even if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions, so it might be a good idea to take a look at your insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for any winter damage. Familiarise yourself with the emergency sections of your policy before you need them.