With Siberian temperatures promised over the next seven days, many people are already worrying about turning up their thermostats, in view of rising energy bills. But with a bit of organisation and financial support, you can make sure you are in the best possible position for the oncoming cold months. Read our tips and advice for how you can get ready for the cold weather.
Get things like servicing of your heating system done well before the cold really starts to bed down. There’s nothing worse than your boiler failing during one of the coldest weeks on record. If you use wood burning stoves and heaters, check that ventilation shafts are working properly and make sure you have an adequate supply of wood for the oncoming months. If you have a fireplace and burn wood or coal, get your chimney swept before you start to use it on a more regular basis.
Have your electric blanket serviced – this should be done at least every three years or buy a new one if it is more than ten years old. Make sure that your smoke alarm is working and install a carbon monoxide detector in case air vents become blocked.
Make sure that you claim all the financial support you can to help with heating bills. Your local Age UK can advise you. Did you know that most people born before 6 July 1951 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment in 2012–13 to help with heating costs? This can amount to £300 each. Previous recipients should get the payment automatically, but if this is the first year that you are eligible, contact the Winter Fuel Payment helpline. If you receive Pension Credit, or certain other benefits, you are automatically paid a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature is at freezing point or below for seven days in a row. You may also be entitled to a discount on your electricity bill if you receive Pension Credit. This is called the Warm Home Discount.
Energy prices are at their highest at the moment, but heating your home is more efficient and cheaper if it is well insulated and your heating works properly. Find out whether you’re eligible for a grant from the Government or energy suppliers to insulate your home and make it more energy-efficient. Grants can be awarded to cover or contribute towards a range of energy-efficiency and heating improvements to your home. There may be a waiting list to get the work done and certain eligibility criteria and means-testing may apply.
Draught-proof doors and windows, insulate the loft, lag the hot-water tank and pipes, and consider getting cavity wall insulation. These measures will help to keep your home warm and your bills down – and you may be able to get financial help to put them in place.
Stay Active and eat well
Moving around is not only essential for your general wellbeing and fitness – it helps to generate heat which then keeps you warm. If you are spending a lot of time indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour. Get up and walk around, make yourself a warm drink and spread any chores throughout the day. Chair-based exercises are helpful if walking is difficult, along with moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes.
Hot meals and warming drinks also help to keep you warm, so eat at least one hot meal each day and have hot drinks during the day. Include a good range of foods in your diet and aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, so that you’re getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Remember that frozen vegetables are as good as fresh. It’s important to eat enough, especially in winter.
Keep your home warm
The colder your home, the higher the risk to your health. The recommended temperature for your main living room is around 70°F/21°C, and the rest of the house should be heated to at least 64°F/18°C. If you feel cold, turn the heat up. It’s so important to keep warm as you are at risk of a heart attack, a stroke or even hypothermia if you’re exposed to a cold environment for a long time, or to extreme cold for only a short time. It is more energy efficient to put the heating on earlier, at a lower temperature, than to whack it up later at a higher temperature. Close the curtains at dusk and fit thermal linings if you can. This will keep the heat in. Put guards on open fires, and be careful not to hang washing too close to the fire.
Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer thanone thick layer, as the layers trap warm air. Natural fibres, such as wool or cotton, will warm you well. Or choose fleecy synthetic fibres which are another good choice. And don’t just wear thermal underwear for outdoors, you can wear these items inside as well. Pop on woolly tights, over the knee socks, t-shirts, long sleeved shirts and jumpers to keep you warm inside.
If you are sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide a lot of warmth. Try to keep your feet up, as the air is cooler at ground level. Wear warm clothes in bed. When very cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat – a lot of heat is lost through your head!
Source: Age UK