New research from British Gas has highlighted that having no heating or hot water would be the number one disaster for households this winter. Even so, many people in Dacorum have not taken action to ensure their homes are winter-ready.
Despite the autumn chill, a national survey* shows that more than a third of households (36%) have not checked that their central heating is working and four in ten have not prepared their home for winter by getting their boiler serviced. Having an annual boiler service carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer is crucial as it detects problems with the boiler and controls, including whether it is leaking poisonous carbon monoxide.
Keeping homes safe is an important part of winter preparation, yet only a third of people (33%) have checked that their carbon monoxide alarm is working. Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’, because the gas has no odour or taste, and is invisible. Fitting an audible alarm is the second line of defence against carbon monoxide poisoning.
Being energy efficient is particularly important during the winter months, and technology can help with this. Whilst nearly half of households (47%) acknowledge that technology could help their home to run more smoothly during winter, just over a third (36%) have smart meters.
Having smart meters installed can help keep household energy in check, as they automatically send readings to the energy supplier. Smart meters also come with a display that shows you how much energy is being used, in pounds and pence, in near real-time, and identify where savings can be made.
Sir Mike Penning MP said: “It’s really important to keep a step ahead of winter. I want everyone in Dacorum to understand what help is available for them, and for their family and friends. Being energy efficient and keeping bills under control is really important, so I’d encourage people to get in touch with their energy supplier to find out what support is on offer.”
British Gas engineer Andy Robertson, who fixes and repairs boilers, said: “Winter can be a challenging time for households, but there are some practical steps that you can take, with our help, to make sure that you are prepared:
Get the best deal
We have been working hard to ensure buying energy is simple, transparent and fair for customers – for every customer on a standard variable tariff they will get an Annual Energy Health Check to make sure they’re on the right tariff. This will highlight other ways we can help our customers save money like replacing old and inefficient boilers or insulating their homes for free.
Get smart meters
Your energy supplier will be able to install smart meters, which mean an end to estimated bills. A smart energy monitor shows how much energy you are using, and what you are spending. British Gas customers are provided with online tools to help them manage their energy usage. Find out more by visiting www.britishgas.co.uk/smartmeters
The British Gas Energy Trust
This independent trust gives face-to-face advice, financial support and grants to help clear energy and household debts. The average grant is around £600 and you don’t have to be a British Gas customer. Find out more by visiting: www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk.
Bleed your radiators: to make sure they are working properly. If your radiators have cold spots at the top, this means you have air in the system, so you will need to bleed them to get them working efficiently.
a. To do this, turn the system off and when cool turn the radiator key until the air stops and water runs consistently. Once you have turned the system back on, the problem should be solved.
b. Cold spots in the bottom or centre of the radiator may be an indication of sludge build up and the need for system flushing.
c. Bleeding your radiator may result in pressure dropping. If you have a pressure gauge, make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary.
Block the breeze: Make sure all of your windows and doors seal properly to stop warm air escaping. For those that don’t, fitting draught excluders, which you can buy from most DIY stores, is a quick and cheap way to cut down on your energy bills.
Stay safe: It’s vital to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted and that you test it regularly.
Love your boiler: Check to make sure that your boiler is working properly before winter sets in. The older your boiler, the more inefficient it will be. If you have a pressure gauge, make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary.
Insulate your pipes: Burst pipes are a huge issue during winter months. To help prevent burst pipes, ensure all pipes are properly insulated by using lagging, which can be bought cheaply from most DIY shops.
Maintain your drains: If you're trying to keep your drains outside well maintained, it's a good idea to make sure they are clear of debris at the point at which they enter the ground. This involves checking your gullies for autumnal leaves and twigs in order to ensure that they don't restrict water flow at any point.
Control your heating remotely with Hive Active Heating: Using Hive Active Heating means you can control your heating and hot water remotely from your smartphone with the Hive app, so you can ensure your home is warm when you need it to be. Find out more: www.britishgas.co.uk/hive
Peace of mind: British Gas has a range of HomeCare products to help keep your home a step ahead of winter with protection for your boiler, heating, electrics and plumbing. With HomeCare you can have your boiler serviced every year for less than 40p a day. Find out more: www.britishgas.co.uk/homecare ”
Jon Wedger is about to embark on a walk from London to Manchester to raise funds and awareness.