10 ways to winter-proof your home

Gloves

How to make sure your home is cosy and energy efficient and save money on bills

1. Keep warm

Avoid boiler breakdowns by ensuring yours has an annual service. Always use a Gas Safe Register engineer and consider renewing a boiler over 10 years old with an energy-efficient one, which could save you between £190-£230* a year. Turning your thermostat down by 1°C will also save money on your heating bills. Get water pressure checked, especially on pressurised systems such as combi boilers, and topped up when necessary. Those who like to relax in front of an open fire should also arrange to have chimneys swept by a NACS – National Association of Chimney Sweeps – registered sweep.

2. Add insulation

Insulate your loft and you'll be warmer and save money on bills - your home could be losing 25 per cent of its heat via the roof. A job for the competent DIYer, fitting a recommended 270mm layer could reduce your bills by up to £150 a year*. Grants are available for some households. Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk for more information.

3. Wrap it up

Lag water tanks and pipes for energy efficiency. Fitting your hot water cylinder with a 75mm insulating jacket is cheap, easy and effective, and could save you around £35 on bills* - the same principle applies to hot water pipes. To prevent pipes freezing, also lag those close to exterior walls and in roof voids and check cold water loft tanks are fitted with an insulation jacket and snug lid. Keep the number of a reliable plumber to hand - find one in your area using a registered organisation such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering.

4. Step outside

Look at the exterior of your home. Check guttering and pipes are secure and free of debris. Inspect roof tiles, timbers and brickwork, and arrange for any repairs using tradespeople affiliated to a reputable organisation such as the Federation of Master Builders. Rake up leaves and debris from the lawn, put tender plants under cover and spread mulch to help protect hardier plants against frost. Pack away garden furniture, turn off the water to outside taps and drain hoses to prevent freezing.

5. Organise your wardrobe

Wash and pack away summer clothes to make room for bulkier winter items. Invest in under-bed bags and boxes or dual-purpose storage (such as window seats) to make the most of available space and store items along with natural insect repellants, such as cedar.

6. Add warmth underfoot

Place some rugs on floors - wooden flooring can be chilly to the touch, so sink your feet into a tactile, warming surface on cold mornings. Remember that rugs and runners (either buy anti-slip rugs or fit with anti-slip pads or tape for safety) will help reduce draughts from gaps in floorboards.

7. Dress windows

Keep the cold out and the heat in with classic, full-length lined curtains or the latest thermal blinds, which help to retain warmth in winter and keep your room cool in summer.

8. Seal the gaps

Eliminating gaps around windows and doors is a cheap, easy and effective way to reduce your home's heat loss. Fit draught excluders, letterbox covers, window and door tapes - you'll save around £25* a year on heating bills. 

9. Lighten up

Make your home a welcoming haven on dark nights by using versatile floor and table lamps to provide both task lighting to read or work by, and soft accent lighting to enhance the mood - you'll find a range in store. Think about using spotlights to highlight features, or choose uplighters to wash walls with a soft glow. Be sure to stock up on energy-efficient light bulbs - they rarely require changing and use far less electricity than standard bulbs (which are due to be phased out by 2012).

10. Pile on the heat

Sleep in style with this season's winter warmers for the bedroom. Layer up with cosy quilts, blankets, bedspreads and throws that are guaranteed to keep you snug on the coldest of nights. And a good old-fashioned but inexpensive hot water bottle (in a cover especially for kids) is very comforting and warms the coldest of feet.

*Figures from the Energy Saving Trust

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