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Heating guide for your parents and grandparents: how to stay warm and save money this winter

Updated October 2021

Britain’s elderly are hit the hardest by the cold at winter. In fact, according to Age UK, in winter an older person dies every seven minutes due to cold temperatures. It’s therefore crucial that their homes are a safe temperature. But for many older people on a limited budget the cost of heating needs to be controlled. This article will give practical tips on how to keep older friends and family warm and healthy, while keeping the costs down where possible.

With the price of gas and electricity set to rise significantly during the winter of 2021/2, it’s worth taking taking time to look at ways to minimise use of energy in the home.

What temperature should be considered safe for an older person?

There are many risks associated with colder temperatures, as they put people in danger of colds, flus and other respiratory problems. Colder temperatures also raise a person’s blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks in older people.

As the living room is where people spend most of their day, it makes sense to keep it a little warmer than the rest of the house so 21°C or higher is ideal. The rest of the house still ought to be at least 18°C, as this is considered a safe temperature.

It’s a good idea to have a thermometer in the living room, and to check it regularly. If 21°C feels too cold, turn the heating up a little higher.

However, according to the Energy Saving Trust, you can become more energy-efficient by installing and using thermostats and boiler controls. Even with a full set of controls, turning down the room thermostat by just one degree can save around £55 a year. So it’s good to strike the right balance for the resident and their budget.

Insulating a house economically

Investing in insulation is wise at any time of year. Cavity-wall and loft insulation will not only help keep a house warmer for longer, but, according the Energy Saving Trust, can save money on heating bills. Insulation can also help to reduce condensation and block out outside noise.

While it can be expensive to install insulation, it may be that your relative is eligible for a government energy grant. You can find out if they are with the help of the government’s energy grants calculator. Their local Age UK branch will also be able to advise about any regional financial support they may be entitled to with regards to insulation and energy bills.

Double-glazed windows retain much more heat than single-glazing, but replacing windows can prove very expensive. If that’s not a viable option then thick curtains also do a great job of keeping the heat in and the cold out. Just make sure the sunlight can come in during the day as it is a great source of natural heat.

Unless they are brand new, the front and back doors probably let in draughts. New, rubber-sealed doors are the ideal, but draught excluders will also do the job and they are much lower cost. And towels and old sheets can provide a temporary buffer against draughts. Gaps around skirting boards can also create draughts, and it may be worth filling these in, and even looking at floor insulation.

Make sure the heating is working properly

Radiators will need bleeding if pockets of air have become trapped in the pipes, restricting the flow of water. Getting rid of the air allows the radiators to work as efficiently as possible, ensuring maximum heat. This will also result in slightly lower energy bills. Bleeding a radiator is not as complex as you might think and uSwitch has a helpful guide showing you exactly how to do it.

If a radiator is on an external wall, some heat will be lost through the wall. Putting tin foil between the wall and the radiator will reflect the heat back out into the room.

Avoid placing large objects, such as sofas, in front of radiators, as they will absorb a lot of the heat. This might require a little moving around, but it’s worth it. And you can always move the furniture back in spring.

If there is a room that no one ever goes into, then it makes sense to turn off the radiators in that room over the winter. You can even install electric radiators with intelligent control that can be turned off for the rooms that you are not using at the moment. You’ll have to simply connect to your Wifi and then you can control each radiator individually through the app or using your voice assistant.

After turning off the radiators of your choice make sure you close the door to this room as well and perhaps even put a draught excluder at the bottom of the door. Make sure you close the door to this room as well and perhaps even put a draught excluder at the bottom of the door.

Did you know if your property does not have a boiler and central heating system, or the if boiler is not working properly, then there are central heating grants available for some households under the ECO 3 scheme? To find out more about who can qualify you can read through the Warma UK free boiler grant guide.

Manage the energy supplier relationship

Join the Priority Services Register. This is a very useful scheme that enables pensioners to get priority support in  an emergency, operates an identification scheme for meter readers, and enables you to be nominated to receive statements or bills on behalf of an older relation.

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