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Keeping your home warm at winter – the challenges

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How can you keep your home warm this winter?

The Met Office had issued weather warnings in the lead up to Christmas 2018, with amber alerts for snow, ice, strong winds and frozen rain. As Britain faces harsh and cold conditions over the coming months, what can we do to keep our homes warm this winter?

Keeping your home warm at winter – the challenges

More than one in ten people in England face fuel poverty, representing about 2.5 million people across the country. And the number of households in debt with their energy supplier is growing. Households tend to be in credit before winter kicks in, but statistics out in November this year showed the number of households in debt has grown 300,000 in the last year.

For people struggling to pay their energy bills, they may choose to keep their heating off or only turn on for short periods of time. But there are a number of dangers associated with this. If the temperature drops below 8°C, some people are more at risk of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, hypothermia, flu and even falling and injuries. According to the NHS, those who are most at risk during cold weather include people aged over 65, on a low income, have long-term health conditions and disabled people.

Why failing to keep your home warm could decrease the indoor air quality

Keeping our homes warm in winter is about more than just thermal comfort and the accompanying wellbeing issues. If homeowners or tenants only put the heating on in some rooms or use small space heaters instead, they could cause more condensation, which is created when cold air meets warm surfaces.

This can lead to mould, damp and poor indoor air quality. If we breathe in mould spores, it can inflame and irritate our airways, causing coughs, sore throats, chest tightness and nasal congestion. If we’re exposed to mould and damp for a long time, it can increase health problems such as asthma.

As well as harming our wellbeing, mould and damp can damage our homes. It can ruin paintwork, walls and plaster, as well as wreck fabrics, soft furnishings and fabric. If it’s left untreated over a long period of time, it can even damage the structural integrity of a property.

How can we keep homes warm this winter?

To improve our thermal comfort and indoor air comfort, it’s important to keep our homes warm over winter. Taking a fabric first approach to designing and building our homes is the first step to keeping Britain’s homes warm in the colder months.

Maximising the air tightness of the building, optimising solar gains and installing insulation can all help. Whether renovating an existing property or building a new home, the Isover Insulation Handbook outlines all the current building regulations and considerations when it comes to areas such as cold roof, external walls, separating walls and ground floors.

And although we want to keep the heat in, we also need to consider ventilation. As we explained, condensation can increase in the winter – but keeping the home well ventilated can help to reduce it. During the summer, ventilation is also important for thermal comfort when we want to bring in cooler air from outside into our homes.

Energy efficient heating systems, for example heat pumps, can help homeowners and tenants reduce their energy bills while keeping their homes a comfortable temperature.

Other ways to keep your house warm and save money this winter

There are other steps people can take to keep their home warm this winter, while trying to control their energy bills.

Heavy, lined curtains can help to keep the cold out and the heat in. But make sure you keep your curtains open during the day, as even the cooler, winter sun can help to warm up your home as it shines through the window. Try not to block your radiators with your curtains though – or any other furniture or fittings for that matter – as you reduce the heat that is distributed around the room.

Go around your house and try to get rid of any draughts coming in through windows, doors or cracks in the floor or skirting boards. Installing a chimney draught excluder could help to save money too – up to around £15 a year, according to the Energy Savings Trust.

And finally, use the timers and controls on your central heating. Don’t keep your heating on all day if you’re not in, and time it so it comes on about half an hour before you get up in the morning. Turning the thermostat down slightly should still keep you feeling warm, but without such high energy bills.

Find out more about why thermal comfort is so important and what design features can improve thermal comfort here.

Disclaimer: The sole responsibility for any views expressed lies with the author(s). Any opinions shared do not necessarily represent the views of Saint-Gobain.

Sarah Buchanan
Sarah Buchanan Product Manager – Structural Insulation,...
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