How do you make your home energy efficient? From servicing your boiler to bleeding the radiators, here are our top tips to protect your home. Energy efficiency is an important part of reducing energy costs and saving money.
As Ned Stark warned us many times “Winter is Coming”, and while there might not be any White-Walkers roaming around our streets – (except on Halloween!), winter will hit your home hard if you’re not prepared and cause you financial distress.
1. Put your heating system to the test
The last thing on your mind right now is to test your heating system but it’s pretty crucial and better than waiting until you have a breakdown in the midst of a bitter British winter!
How do you test your heating?
These are some easy steps to test your gas or oil central heating system:
Turn all the radiator valves on
Turn up the room thermostat to maximum
Set the heating to run on your boiler
After 15 minutes touch the radiators to see if they are starting to heat up
If you find that all the radiators heat up then everything is in good condition. However, if one or two radiators remain cold, it’s likely that some pockets of air are trapped inside and you’ll need to bleed the affected radiator/s.
It’s also advised to check for leaks and drips at this point.
Now that you’ve tested your heating system, you’re in a good position to spot issues early on before they escalate and have a chance to book in a heating engineer before the busy season begins.
It’s no surprise that heating engineers get booked up pretty quick this time of the year, meaning if you leave it till the last minute, you could end up waiting for a long time.
2. Bleed your radiators
Another way to spot if your radiator needs bleeding is if your radiator is hot at the bottom and cold at the top. It’s likely to be down to air pockets that stop warm water from circulating in the radiator. Ensuring your rads are clear will help the energy efficiency.
In a nutshell, bleeding a radiator is a way of releasing air from the system.
How to bleed your radiator?
To bleed a radiator you’ll need a radiator bleed key, dry cloth or towel and a container to catch any excess water that comes out of the radiator.
You can find radiator keys at any hardware store, they tend to cost between 50p and £3.
For safety, you need to make sure that your central heating is turned off before you start, as it could be very dangerous.
Now, find the ‘bleed screw’, it’s usually at the top of the radiator, and place your container on the floor beneath this area to catch any excess water.
Using the bleeding key, turn the bleed screw anti-clockwise slowly until you hear a hissing sound as the air escapes.
Once you reach the little bit of water at the end, it’s time to tighten the valve back up – not too tight so you don’t end up damaging the valve.
At last, to avoid rusting, wipe any excess water on the radiator.
Now you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to move on to the next radiator and repeat.
Once you’re done and ready to turn the heating back on, check the pressure gauge on the boiler to make sure it’s at the optimum level – ideally 1.3 bar for the best energy efficiency.
3. Find your stopcock
Your stopcock is a tap that controls the water coming into your house from the main water supply. But do you know where it is? If not, you are not alone. Millions of Brits have no idea what a stopcock is and 25% have never tried to find it.
It’s vital to find where your stopcock is especially as the winter approaches. The harsh weather might cause the pipes to freeze, and in some unfortunate cases to crack and burst. Knowing where your stopcock is will help you turn the water system off and limit leakage and further damages.
How to locate your stopcock?
It’s great to know what a stopcock is, but without knowing where to find it, it’s not much use to you. Knowing where your stopcock is can allow you to shut off your water quickly and limit the damage before a professional can investigate the problem.
To make it easier to spot, a stopcock looks like a tap or a lever and is marked with a ‘W’ or ‘Water’ sign.
Generally speaking, stopcocks tend to be easier to find in new houses, rather than in older properties. It’s usually located under your kitchen sink, but if you can’t find it there, try looking in an airing cupboard, in a hallway, under the stairs, by the gas meter, in a utility room, in a cellar or in some properties outside of the house.
On the other hand, in flats, stopcocks can be located in a cupboard or in communal corridors with stopcocks for other flats.
When you find it, it’s worth testing if it’s working, just twist the tap either way and once you’ve shut the stopcock, test your water flow. Don’t forget to reopen your valve afterwards!
If you find your stopcock is stiff, try loosening it with some WD40 – just be careful not to force the valve too hard or it’ll snap. If in doubt, get a plumber to sort it out.
If you had to turn off the stopcock, it’s advised to turn off your boiler as well to stop it from running dry and getting damaged – although most new boilers can detect water supply issues.
4. Get your boiler serviced
Getting your boiler serviced at least once a year, can help you spot small issues before they turn into major problems, prevent wear and tears and save money! Think of it as your boiler’s MOT and is crucial for home efficiency.
Reasons to get your boiler serviced
- A boiler service allows the engineer to identify safety issues such as a carbon monoxide leak. Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” is an extremely toxic, odourless and colourless gas. Hundreds of thousands visit hospitals with symptoms related to Carbon Monoxide poisoning with symptoms including headaches, dizziness, stomach pain and shortness of breath. If you don’t get your boiler serviced annually, it’s recommended that you ensure your home is fitted with a Carbon Monoxide detector.
- Your boiler might not be operating as well as it should be – and with a few tweaks, a service can get it back on track, saving you money on utility bills, expensive repair costs or even replacing your boiler which can cost thousands.
- As standard, your new boiler will have a manufacturer’s warranty of at least 2 years (dependent on the manufacturer), which means any faults that develop in that time will be repaired free of charge. However, you need to keep in mind that this warranty is only valid as long as you get the boiler annually serviced by a Gas Safe engineer.
How much does a boiler service cost?
The cost of annual boiler services vary depending on who carries it out and what kind of boiler you have, but on average the cost is between £75 – £150 for a local heating company.
Tip to save ££
You could save money by getting your boiler serviced during the summer when engineers aren’t as busy. This way, you know that your boiler is ready to heat your home come the cold winter months. Meaning you can think about cosy nights on the sofa instead!
The most important part is to ensure that the engineer who’s carrying out the work is qualified. For gas boilers, the engineer must be authorised and regulated by the Gas Safe register, while an oil boiler should be serviced by an OFTEC engineer.
Do check their ID card before they start work on your boiler.
5. Clear your drains and gutters
Cleaning your gutters isn’t fun or glamorous, but it’s vital to protect your house especially in the winter.
Leaves, silt, litter, stones and debris build up over time blocking your drains and gutters and preventing the water from draining away.
How to clean out drains and gutters?
All you have to do is pop on some waterproof gloves (nobody wants to get their hands dirty!), rest a ladder against the side of your house and check your gutters for any obstructions. Take a plastic bag with you up the ladder and scoop out anything that shouldn’t be there. If all that sounds like too much to ask, you could get gutter guards installed instead. Make sure to stay safe, use a strong ladder in good condition that is properly secured, and work with a partner who can hold the ladder steady at the base. If in doubt, get a professional and DON’T take risks!
6. Insulate your pipes
It’s easy to protect pipes using the right pipe insulation, especially those that are exposed. The pipes which run along a wall or are in an unheated area like a basement, attic, garage, or utility room are at risk of freezing and bursting in the winter. Keeping in the heat will ultimately prevent loss and will make your home energy efficient.
How to insulate your pipes?
You can get pipe insulation at the hardware store – it looks like a giant piece of spaghetti with a slit. Just cut it to fit the length of the pipe, wrap it around, then secure it with duct tape.
DIY tip – when selecting water pipe insulation, consider the R-value of the various options. R-value is a measurement that quantifies the resistance to heat flow of a given material. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power of that material and give your pipes a good clean before insulating to help the insulation stick better.
7. Set a heating timer
If you’re heading off for some winter sun, think about keeping your home heated to 16 degrees Celsius, this will ensure the heating system runs smoothly and prevent your pipes from freezing and eventually bursting. Luckily you don’t need to put the heater on the whole day and pay and pay an extortionate amount, in fact, all you need is a couple of hours a day to keep your pipes safe.
Let’s be honest, the last thing you want to do when you come back from a week on the beach is to deal with a burst pipe!
How to set up a heating timer?
Boilers do come in different shapes and sizes. To find out how to use your particular boiler timer, it’s always best to refer to your boiler instruction manual or ask Dr Google. You can normally find digital versions of most instruction manuals online.
8. Protect your garden furniture
If you want your garden furniture to look shiny next summer and last longer, store them securely in your garage or shed – no one wants to see their parasol flying like a missile to their neighbour’s house during a winter storm!
How to keep your garden furniture safe in the winter?
First, you’ll need to clean and dry your outdoor furniture to prevent rust, it’s a good opportunity to get that burger grease off!
Clean upholstery and remove if possible – store your cushions or other upholstery garden furniture pieces indoors, don’t forget to follow the care instructions.
Store your garden furniture away – you probably won’t be using your gardening tools or lawnmower for a few months now
Stack or fold your table and chairs – most garden furniture is collapsible, stack and fold your chairs and table if possible, to get them stored safely in a small space.
Invest in a waterproof furniture cover to keep them dry in the wetter months and keep covers secured.
9. Check your insurance policy
As the nights get longer, crime rates against property increase, so having the right home insurance policy that fits your needs is more important than ever.
The 3 most common insurance claims during winter
- Escape of water/burst pipes claims
- Storm and flood insurance claims
- Burglary Insurance Claims
Although, you might not be able to prevent bad weather from damaging your property completely, having an insurance policy that covers damage from extreme weather conditions such as storms or flooding will help put your mind at rest.
10. Have an emergency pack for a blackout - just in case!
Blackouts are not common in the UK, however, it’s always good to be prepared.
Whether it lasts a few minutes or a few hours, having an accessible emergency kit in the house means you can stay warm and safe when the lights go off.
Your emergency kit could include some torches, candles, matches, battery-powered radio, a power bank to charge your phone, long-lasting snacks, bottled water and blankets or a snuggie – it’s always an awesome thing to have!
Now that your home is ready for winter, it’s time to relax and enjoy some mulled wine!