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AGuide to Keeping Warm in Winter
When winter comes, you need to brace yourself. The temperatures drop, there’s less daylight and the weather is generally foreboding. Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, you’ve got to wrap up until spring rolls around again and then makes way for summer. Getting ready for winter? From heating your home to making the use of resources available to you, this is our handy guide to keeping warm throughout this bitter season.
Heating your home
The obvious place to start when it comes to keeping warm in the winter is to turn on the heating. If you’re strategic with your heating use, you can use it effectively to stay warm in your home:
Set heating to come on before you get up; and to go off after you go to bed
There’s nothing worse than stepping out of a warm bed into a cold room. It’s especially not nice on bitterly cold mornings when you have to get up to go to work. Set your heating so that it comes on just before you get up and turns off just as you go to bed. If the previous night’s weather forecast is predicting exceptionally chilly temperatures, set your heating to come on earlier than usual so that the house is toasty warm when you get up.
Keep your home at a safe, stable temperature
Sudden changes in temperature can be dangerous, so it’s better to heat your home at a stable temperature rather than a high temperature just for a couple of hours. Set your thermostat to 21ºC during the day and 18ºC at night. If you can’t afford to heat all the rooms of your home, focus on your living room (or perhaps your office, if you work from home) and, before you go to bed, your bedroom. Don’t forget to close doors and windows to keep the heat in.
Check the heating regularly
You want your heating to be firing on all cylinders when the chilly season sets in, so it’s best to check your heating in the summer. All it takes is to turn it on for a little while just to see if the radiators and boiler are working. It’s better to find out sooner than later. If you look after them and have them checked regularly, you can detect and address any issues before winter arrives.
Watch out for carbon monoxide
You should always ventilate your home when using an appliance. If a heating or cooking appliance has been badly installed, is not being well maintained or is poorly ventilated, it could give off the poisonous gas carbon monoxide, which you can’t see, smell or taste. Hire a registered and reliable engineer to check these appliances each year. Have carbon monoxide alarms fitted, too. These should also undergo regular checks.
Preserving the heat
As well as turning on on the heat in winter, it’s essential to prepare your home beforehand so that it stops the heat getting out and the cold from getting in. You can do this by draught-proofing and insulating your home. Not only will you be able to keep your home warmer, but you can also lower your energy bills, which is a handy little bonus.
Start with your windows and doors. The cold can seep in easily through any gaps around them, so seal these up ― you could also place draft excluders behind the doors ―and leave it no place to enter. Don’t forget about your letterbox. You’ll be surprised how much cold actually comes in through this.
Insulate your loft
Did you know an uninsulated home loses a quarter of its heat through the loft roof? This makes loft insulation another good way to reduce your energy bills and the insulation will serve you for approximately 40 years before you have to look into it again. Your loft should have 10 to 11 inches of insulation. Going to this expense now will save you lots of money in the long run.
Insulate cavity walls
A cavity wall consists of two walls with a gap between them both and if your home was built after the 1920s, your home is likely to have them. The outer one will be made of brick and the inner one will be made of concrete block or brick. What you may also not know is that a home loses a third of its heat through cavity walls, so you should insulate these, too.
This is a job for a registered installer, who will drill holes into wall, inject insulation material and then cover the holes back up with cement. If you don’t know whether your walls are cavity ones or standard solid walls (which is a single, solid wall), take a quick look at the brick pattern: if the bricks are evenly laid, it’s a cavity wall; if they’re not ― i.e. some bricks have been laid across the wall, so that you see the end of the brick ― it’s likely to be a solid wall.
(Incidentally, if you do have solid brick walls, you could fit radiator reflectors behind your radiators to reflect heat back into the rooms of your home, rather than let the heat escape through the wall. They work best with solid walls.)
Insulate pipes and water tanks
Insulating your pipes and water tanks is relatively straightforward and relatively inexpensive. When it comes to insulating the tank, all you have to do is buy a hot water cylinder jacket, which costs about £15, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fit it. In the case of the pipes, you just add some foam tubing to the pipes exposed between the water tank and the boiler. You might have to call in a professional, though, if the pipes are in tricky areas.
You can insulate your home and turn on the heating, but it doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, the more measures you implement, the easier you’ll be able to withstand the cold temperatures.
Make sure you have a good duvet
Check the tog rating of your duvet, which indicates the latter’s ability to trap warm air. If it’s 7 or under, you’re going to really feel the cold when the winter nights arrive. The higher the tog rating, the warmer the duvet.
Ideally, you want a duvet that has a tog rating of around 10.5 or upwards. Some people prefer to use the same duvet the whole year round. This is okay and one that has a tog rating of 10 would be a reasonable compromise. You can simply add an extra blanket in winter.
Don’t forget that duvets are transferable, too. Why sit shivering in your living room? Drag your duvet into the living room.
Use an electric blanket
Who doesn’t love the warmth of electric blanket? Before slipping beneath it, however, check whether it’s the type of blanket you can leave on all night or if, instead, you have to heat it up and then switch it off when you climb into that beautiful, spacious bed of yours. Have your electric blanket tested every three years to ensure it’s still safe.
One of your other options is to pop a hot water bottle in your bed. You can choose either, but under absolutely no circumstances should you ever use a hot water bottle and electric blanket together. It’s highly dangerous to do so.
One way of preventing the cold from having too much impact is to keep active, of course, because it generates heat. If you’re indoors, you should avoid sitting still for more than hour, so get up and walk around the house a little. You can stay active throughout the day by spreading chores across the day. You can also do some exercises. If you’re ill or bed-bound for some reason, even just moving your arms and wiggling your arms, legs and toes can help you stave off some of that unpleasant feeling of cold.
Wear warm clothes indoors
Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, you should wrap up. Don’t feel daft about what you wear indoors. When you’re going to bed, don’t just leave it up to your duvet to keep you warm. You can wear a hat and/or thermal clothing and your support the duvet with an electric blanket or a hot water bottle (but never both at the same time). Enjoy a warm bath before you go to bed. This will warm you up and, additionally, help you to sleep once you jump into bed.
Layer up outdoors with thin layers
Another approach you could consider is layering your clothing, especially if you’re going to be outdoors. The layers trap the warm air between them, which acts as insulation. You should start by putting on a thin but comfortable close-fitting layer, which will be the base for your outfit. With each layer, the clothing should get thicker. You’ll hardly notice the cold. This is also a good way to dress children in winter. Make sure they wear lots of layers and that their clothes are made from wool, cotton or fleece.
Get your feet up
Did you know that the air closer to the ground is colder? Perhaps you’ve noticed your feet get cold when you’re standing in an outdoor sports stadium or at a grass-roots match or sitting on a chilly train somewhere. When you’re at home and the temperatures are colder, wear some thick socks and some comfortable slippers, grab a stool and put your feet up.
Harness the power of drinks
Naturally, it makes sense to reach for the hot drinks when the temperatures drop. The body distributes the heat evenly and the warm liquid will cause your body temperature to surge and stay this way for a good while. There’s also the extra bonus of being able to warm your hands up just by holding the cup.
You can give your body temperature an additional boost by adding some spices to drinks and food. Cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, cardamom, horseradish and garlic all have properties that would do the trick. If you can incorporate any of these into your drinks or your meals, you could handle the drop in cold temperatures that little bit easier.
Look for financial help
You could be so busy insulating your home, draught-proofing it, setting your heating and more that it may not occur to you to see if you can get some financial help with your home. The Government actively encourages citizens to make their homes more environmentally friendly and offers grants to help with this, particularly in the case where saving energy is concerned. In some circumstances, energy companies will also lend you a hand with the costs:
The Warm Homes Scheme
This scheme can help you to cut your energy bills. The scheme is open to pensioners and to people on low incomes and if you meet the criteria, you’ll receive a discount on your electricity bills. Energy suppliers manage the scheme and will credit the account of people who become part of it. If you receive both your gas and electricity from the same supplier, you could receive a discount on your gas bill. Why not apply and see if you’re eligible?
Home improvement grants
Under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, which aims to tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions, energy companies fund measures that households take to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. If you’re eligible to take part in the scheme, you could receive funding for loft insulation projects. Other measures eligible for potential funding include the installation of smart meters and replacement of boilers.
A note on wellbeing
Preparing for the winter doesn’t just mean focusing on staying warm. You should consider the bigger picture of your wellbeing. Eating well ― which includes eating plenty of fruit and vegetables ― and visiting the doctor for jabs against flu and other illnesses is also important, as is exercise. All of these things are especially necessary in the winter because the lower temperatures can make you more vulnerable to illness and disrupt your wellbeing.
Follow the tips above and you can stay much warmer when those cold winter days and nights arrive. Wrap up warm. It won’t be long before summer is here again!