Temperatures are dipping, ice is on the breath, the threat of snowfall is ever present, and it isn’t even winter yet. The dark, frost-bitten months of our least favourite season are just days away, and with the continued drop in temperatures, many start to worry about how they’re going to keep warm in during these harsh months.
Britons face a crisis
While the winter of 2018 is set to be the coldest for over a decade, rising energy prices, stagnant wages and increased cost of living puts ever more pressure on the Great British household. Those pounds have to stretch further than they used to, and heating your home is expensive, to the tune of over £500 per year. Yet, the cold weather isn’t a joke or something to be brushed off. Tens of thousands of Britons die every year as a direct result of cold weather, most being vulnerable — elderly or sick — but others simply struck down by illness exacerbated or contracted due to the plummeting temperatures.
Whether you’re living in Bristol, or anywhere else in the UK, staying warm from late December to early March is essential for good health. But, besides whacking your heating up to max and burning through money faster than an EU referendum deal, how can you keep out the cold this winter?
“Just put another layer on”. How many times have you heard that before?
The age-old advice is that if you’re cold, you should just increase the volume of clothing you wear. But this isn’t always the best advice. Extra layers may provide additional protection against the cold, but eating dinner and relaxing in your coat isn’t particularly comfortable. Many items of warmer clothing are also designed to block the cold and not trap heat, which means they won’t actually keep you all that warm when stationary.
What you need is specialist clothing, such as winter thermals. These types of clothing are skin-tight and designed to stop body heat escaping. Thin, comfortable and cheap to buy, they are worn under your regular clothes and ensure you stay nice and toasty. Wearing thermals allows you keep warm without having to layer up like a child going out to play in the snow.
Houses are designed with a certain amount of insulation, yet they aren’t as good at trapping heat as you might think. There are plenty of spaces in the home where heat is transferred and lost. The result is your central heating has to work harder to maintain a level temperature; you also have to keep it on longer to avoid your home cooling down.
If your house were to be better insulated, though, it would trap heat and stay warmer for longer. Insulating your house also means you retain more heat produced through other methods, such as a cooking, lighting, other electrics and even the human body — helping you to keep warm in the winter.
Investing in additional insulation for your home is a long-term strategy for a more wallet-friendly, warmer lifestyle. Wall space, attics and floors are all spaces that can be bolstered with extra insulation. Having this material installed can cost a couple hundred pounds, yet the annual savings on energy bills often recover those costs in less than two years.
When it comes to keeping warm in the winter, we all look to the humble boiler for help. The lifeblood of the British home in the cold months, they provide vital central heating that helps stave off those freezing temperatures.
The problem is, many people take their boilers for granted, leaving them to just trundle away in the corner. A boiler, though, is a complex piece of mechanics, and as many of you will know, prone to faults. From knocking sounds and other weird noises, to issues turning on and dodgy pilot lights, everyone has had to deal with a boiler issue at some point in their life.
Problems with your boiler in the winter can spell absolute disaster.
The unforeseen costs of boiler breakdowns right after an expensive Christmas can mean you’re unable to replace or repair the appliance during the coldest months of the year — a time where usage of central heating is at its highest and problems are more likely to occur. The prospect of a winter without heating is a very serious one. Old or poorly maintained boilers are also inefficient, which costs you extra on your energy bills.
It needn’t be this way, though. Boilers are essential pieces of the British lifestyle and should be maintained properly, similar to a car. If you fail to maintain your car, it’ll breakdown; if you keep it serviced and looked after, it’ll run for years. The same can be said for boilers. Investing in annual checkups and maintenance of your boiler before the beginning of the winter season ensures that potential issues are caught and sorted before disaster strikes, allowing your appliance to carry on running and keeping you warm right through those cold months. Don’t just ignore your boiler. Look after it and it’ll look after you.
Eliminating Drafts and Cold Air Pathways
Thanks to the wonders of physics, cold air is constantly battling to steal heat from warmer areas of your home and create an environmental equilibrium. When it’s 20’C in your house and 3’C outside, that means the cold is going to have a dramatic effect on that precious, precious heat.
What you want to do is stop that brutally cold air coming into contact with your nice warm air, but how do you do that? You eliminate areas of the home that are conduits of cold and replace them with those that attract warmth.
What methods of cold exclusion can you use to keep warm in the winter?
- Activity creates energy, which creates heat: Inactivity means energy bleeds away, leaving cold, still air. Empty rooms, without movement, are colder than those that are used regularly. An open door to these rooms allows the cold air to transfer easily into the warmer areas of the home, cooling the ambient temperature. Shut the door to unused areas of the home and put a draft excluder at the foot of the door as well.
- Seal and Cover Windows, Doors and Draft Points: Windows and doors are not airtight, which means cold air from the outside can get in. Using tape to seal up those windows and doors that aren’t opened often can keep your home warmer, as can putting draft excluders anywhere possible. It’s also advisable to seal up cat flaps and doggy doors if possible. Finally, cover your windows. Glass is another major culprit when it comes to home temperature drops. Only providing a thin barrier, glass allows for the cold to seep in faster than through a wall. Putting fabric covers over windows or using thick curtains can protect your home against the cold air outside.
- Cover Stone, Metal and Wooden Surfaces: These materials all attract and absorb cold very quickly. Put a t-shirt and a metal can outside for an hour and the metal can will be far colder. This same concept applies to surfaces, such as tables, chairs, floors, countertops, etc. They’ll get cold quickly, emitting cold air and causing the temperature of your home to drop. Cloth-like material and carpets trap heat and stay warmer. Covering wooden or laminate floors with rugs and putting table-cloths over your furniture are just a couple of ways you can stop the transference of cold air to your warm spaces.
Strategic Heating to Keep Warm in the Winter
Pumping out heating across your whole house can be expensive, but consider the cost of only heating one room or a few rooms. This would be dramatically cheaper while still ensuring you have a nice warm space to fend off illness and keep yourself in good health.
By using space heaters — electric heaters that are similar in appearance to a radiator — and following the other tips on this list, you can cheaply heat one room, such as the living room, for long periods of time. Just be sure to put your thermals on when leaving to make a cup of tea!