Keeping Your Home Warm This Winter


The Law Of…Heating Your House During Winter

Cold weather brings about all kinds of risks and problems during the winter time. Low temperatures create an increased risk of cold and flu, as well as other illnesses. A house that is not properly insulated can also make living conditions very uncomfortable. These conditions can put the elderly at risk, as well as children in low-income families who may have issues paying fuel prices.

James Urquhart-Burton, Partner in Care Homes Claims, explains what services are available to people trying to warm their homes this winter, as well as some tips on how to make sure your house is ready for the cold season.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Age UK released a report in 2016 showing that a shocking quarter of a million elderly people had passed away prematurely due to issues relating to the cold and poorly insulated homes.

During the winter time, the drop in temperature can raise blood pressure, making you more susceptible to cold or flu. Not only this, but the cold also means that once elevated, our blood pressure takes longer to return to normal. For the elderly, this can result in a heightened risk of heart attack or stroke.

Low-income households are also at risk, as they may struggle with increased fuel costs over the winter. Children are also a high risk in cold weather. It is important to make sure they dress in layers or change their clothing if they get wet. This will reduce the risk of cold weather-related illness.

What Can Be Done To Keep The Vulnerable Warm

With vulnerable people at risk this winter, it's important to raise awareness of how to keep homes sufficiently warm. There are a few simple methods which can make your home more heat retentive, as well as several resources and campaigns aimed specifically at helping people with cold homes this winter.

The following are great resources, all aimed at keeping your home warm:

  • Age UK is a great resource for older people looking for advice on how to heat your home and stay safe this winter. They not only offer information on how to keep your home heated, but also give advice on how to stay healthy over the winter in general. Their site also has a dedicated hotline for any questions you may have.
  • National Energy Action is currently in the middle of their warm homes campaign, which looks at raising awareness over the cost issues some people have heating their homes. If you or someone you know is struggling with fuel costs this winter, be sure to get involved and spread awareness. They also provide lots of information on fuelling household cost effectively.
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme is a scheme targeted at anyone struggling with fuel costs this winter. The government is offering a £140 discount on electricity bills between 2017 and 2018 under the scheme, providing a certain eligibility criteria is met.

Aside from these resources and schemes, there are also a few simple changes you could make to ensure your home is more heat efficient.

Inspect Your Furnace

Whether you heat your home using a gas furnace or an electric heat pump, it's very important to check before the cold weather comes that it is in working order. A proper annual inspection should be left to a certified professional, but things, like turning off the furnace and cleaning away any accumulated dust or dirt, you can do yourself.

Make sure never to try cleaning your furnace while it is on or still hot. If you suspect a gas leak or any other serious issue with your furnace, do not switch it on until it has been inspected by a professional.

Insulate Your Radiators

A good way to reduce heat loss in your home is to install a reflective roll between the wall and the radiator. For as little as £5, you can purchase specialised reflective rolls from various DIY outlets. They are suitable for use with all radiators and make your home more energy efficient all year round.

It is important you purchase the correct material. Using makeshift alternatives like reflective kitchen foil has been shown to not only be less effective but is also a health and safety hazard. Make sure the radiator is off before trying to install any insulation to them, the back can get extremely hot and you may burn yourself.

Other Methods Of Warming Your House

Aside from the above, there are also a couple of unorthodox methods to reducing heat loss in your house:

  • Layer your curtains. Curtains are not only for privacy and decoration; they also act as another layer of insulation for your windows. Even if you have double glazing, it may be worth adding another layer or two to your curtains to trap more heat in during the evenings.
  • Change your bedding to a winter duvet. The standard bedding you use year-round may not be sufficient during the height of winter. It’s a good idea to get hold of a duvet designed specifically for colder seasons if you can, or simply doubling up with regular ones.
  • Cover the keyhole. Some homes, especially older ones, may have a back or porch door with an old-fashioned, circular keyhole. This is effectively a small hole in your door for heat to escape through. It's also a good idea to cover any holes like this throughout your home.
  • Treat your windows. Double glazing is the best option here, but is often quite costly, and may not be an option if you are not the homeowner. There are products in existence, like plastic films that you can stick over single glazed windows to trap more heat in, albeit to a lesser degree than actual double glazing.
  • Draft excluders. The gaps in door and window frames are responsible for some heat loss. By inserting a draft excluder, you can limit this. They usually come in the form of a foam, rubber or metal device that fits onto or is placed at the bottom of a door or window.

What To Do If You Suspect An Elderly Person Cannot Keep Warm

If you suspect an elderly or vulnerable person is struggling to keep warm this winter, then Age UK's Spread The Warmth Campaign suggests the following:

  • Make them aware. Encouraging them to keep warm through understanding proper temperatures is important. A main room should have a temperature of roughly 70F/21C, and the rest of the house at least 64F/18C.
  • Call in or visit more often. Make sure to check in to make sure conditions are suitable, this will also make the person you visit feel less isolated and keep spirits up.
  • Make sure they have everything they need. Checking to make sure food items are stocked up, and important things like prescriptions have been collected. The elderly struggle to get out and about as much during the winter, so it's important to make sure they are fully accommodated where possible.

If the elderly person is not capable of looking after themselves, then it may be worth considering a care home, or some other assisted living arrangement following an assessment of their needs.

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