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How older adults can make the most out of their heating this winter

28th November 2017

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Every winter there are concerns over whether enough people are able to heat their homes. This is especially important for older adults as the colder weather has an impact on respiratory and circulatory conditions and extended colder periods can cause real harm.

The distress that ‘fuel poverty’ causes is most prevalent in households of older adults, low-income families with small children and those suffering from disabilities. Those with limited mobility can find this time of year particularly challenging as they may struggle with circulatory conditions, which is why facilities like a home stair lift are essential as is keeping their home warm.

While many charities and organisations are looking to help increase winter fuel allowance, making your heating more efficient is a great way to save money while you’re keeping your home warmer. Though some changes (like a more efficient boiler) require a financial outlay, others look at improving systems people already have in place.

Draughts

 

Nothing makes a person feel colder than an insistent draught and though bundling on another jumper is a possibility, there are only so many layers one can wear in their own home.

Instead, seeking out the source of draughts is the best way to stop their effects and let heating systems work efficiently. Find the source of draughts easily by holding a lit incense stick near the draught. The smoke will visibly follow the draught allowing people to move in the opposite direction to the smoke to find the source.

It is not just the obvious places like windows and doors that are the source of draughts. Electrical fittings, under the floorboards and piping that leads outside, could all be culprits for a draughty home. The Green Age suggests there is some serious financial recompense for going on a draught hunt:

“It is estimated that installing draught proofing measures in an average UK home could save the household £60 per year on heating bills. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if every home were to do this in the UK, the total energy savings could be worth as much as £190 million, and the energy saved would heat nearly 400,000 homes.”

Chimneys

 

Fireplaces are beautiful additions to older houses but they are also enormous vents to the outside world, meaning unless a chimney is well maintained and the fireplace in regular use, it could be making the house colder. Capping off a chimney can be a costly experience, thankfully there are other solutions.

Chimney sheep is a simple solution if you have a working fire but still want to remove draughts. The ‘sheep’ is made from the wool of Herdwick sheep and is effective for fitting snugly in the flue to minimise draughts. It can be easily removed if someone wishes to use the fire. 

Timing

 

Heating the home effectively means getting clever with timing and strategy. Identifying rooms you do not use regularly or for extended periods of time (like utility rooms, spare bedrooms or hallways) is the first step to an improved heating strategy. Turning down radiators and closing the doors to these rooms means your bills will be less while the rest of your home will remain unaffected.

Homes do not need to be heated all the time, especially if occupants are often out and about. Those with a regular schedule should get to grips with their boiler’s timer. It can take between 20-30 minutes before people feel the effects of their heating so boiler timers should reflect this with heating coming on up to half an hour before people normally get up or return from regular engagements.

For people without rigid schedules, consider remotely controlling your heating. With the aid of a smartphone, apps like Hive connect their products to mobile devices. This allows the user greater control over their home heating so they can adapt to plans changing. 

Optimise radiators

 

Radiators are often the main way people heat their homes so it makes sense to help them perform at their best. There are simple ways to optimise radiators performance and if they have been regularly bled and obstructing furniture removed, people may wish to investigate reflector panels.

OVO energy says, “Installing radiator reflector panels can be a great, inexpensive way to maximise their efficiency. These shiny metal panels are installed behind your radiator, stopping heat escaping through external walls and reflecting it back into the room, where it can get on with its job of keeping you snug during Corrie.”

More expensive solutions

Boiler

 

Very old boilers are nowhere near as efficient as their modern counterparts so replacing them is always a good idea. However, some boilers are still usable with the aid of regular servicing. Make Warm agrees that regular servicing is the way forward: “Make sure you regularly get your boiler serviced. This will ensure that it’s running efficiently as well as safely. It will be inspected for any faults and optimised to make sure it’s running at its best to keep you and your family warm. If it’s quite an old model you may need to consider a replacement.”

Insulation

 

If your home has not been insulated recently, or perhaps not at all, it may be time to assess. Insulation is one of the best ways to keep homes warm and bills down, so inefficient insulating can make a huge difference. Lofts are often the places where insulation is most prevalent so checking the upper floors is the best ways to see if a home is insulated.

Properly insulating a home can be expensive however there are government grants put in place to help people. Check out the Gov.UK website to see if you are eligible for aid in improving your home.  

Image Credit: Steve WebsterYutaka Seki