As winter approaches, we start to think more about keeping our homes warm and snug. Perhaps we’re thinking about an elderly relative who is struggling to keep warm, especially as fuel costs are set to soar next year.
In most homes there are always some rooms that are colder than others. There are many reasons for this: the number of outside walls, draughts, the position of radiators and so on. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to combat this problem and keep all of your rooms warm and welcoming, or retain the extra bit of heat that could make the difference in an old person’s house. What’s more, they won’t cost a fortune.
One of the most common causes of a cold room is draughts from external doors and windows. Fortunately, it’s also an easy problem to fix. You can buy a draught-proofing strip cheaply from any DIY store, and it’s easy to apply. While you’re checking the windows, make sure that any trickle vents are closed when they’re not needed, as these are a common cause of draughts. Look too at things like letterboxes and cat flaps to see if you can provide extra insulation – even keyholes may benefit from a cover.
Having your heating system working efficiently will make a big difference to how warm your home feels. Start by checking your radiators and bleeding off any excess air so that they’re evenly warm across the whole surface. If you have thermostatic radiator valves, you can control the heat in individual rooms so that bedrooms are cooler than living areas, for example. If there are spare rooms that you don’t use very often, don’t turn the heat in these off completely: put it on a low setting and keep the door closed to prevent colder air escaping to the rest of the house.
If some parts of the house are getting warmer than others, check that your central heating pump is working correctly and set to the correct speed to allow it to pump water around the whole system. In the event of a problem, heating pumps are inexpensive to replace, and it’s a job that can be done by a competent DIYer.
It doesn’t matter how well your heating is working, because you won’t bet getting the maximum benefit from it if the heat can’t get to where it’s needed. Move furniture away from radiators and ensure that curtains stop short of radiators under windows. Putting a shelf above a radiator can help channel heat out into the room rather than have it go up to the ceiling. Adding reflective foil behind the radiator on external and party walls also helps to push heat back into the room and prevent it from escaping.
Wood strip floors may be fashionable, but they can also be a source of heat loss. As much as ten per cent of your heat could be lost via an uninsulated floor. Even in a warm house, a hard floor may not feel especially welcoming. Putting down rugs can help things feel warmer, even if it’s only a psychological effect. If there are gaps between your floorboards, filling them can also stop heat escaping and prevent draughts.
We all have our own in-built heating systems, and you can help retain that heat by putting on a jumper. If you want to sit around in shorts and a T-shirt during the winter, your heating costs will be much higher. It’s much better to dress appropriately and save on your energy bills.
Even if you have double glazing, you’ll still lose some heat through your windows. The best way of preventing this is to get some thick curtains – ideally with a thermal lining. These will help keep your room warm after dark. Make sure they stop short of any radiators below the windows, though, or you’ll just be channelling heat up between the curtains and the glass. Curtains across the back of exterior doors can help to keep in the heat too.
Insulating your home properly is one of the best ways of retaining heat. It’s also relatively inexpensive, and you may even be able to get a grant to help with the cost. Since warm air rises, the loft is the first place to look at when it comes to adding or topping up insulation. Make sure you insulate the hatch too. It’s important to ensure that your roof is in good condition and not letting in any water, as wet insulation is less efficient. It’s also vital to ensure that there are air gaps around the eaves to provide ventilation and prevent condensation from building up.