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

Heating a home in winter can be expensive. Rix Petroleum offers tips for keeping rooms comfortable and draughts at bay without spending a fortune.

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.

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.

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 to Brian Horne at the Energy Saving Trust, it should save a homeowner in the region of £175 per year (figures from 2015).

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 AgeUK 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.

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. 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 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 your parents or grandparents use heating oil instead of gas, then the good news is oil prices have dropped and are predicted to drop even further in 2016, making them a cheaper way to heat the home. We recommend refilling your tank as early as possible in the cooler season, to reduce the risk of running out during the cold snap. It’s worth ordering a little more than usual at the beginning of winter, but this tactic is sometimes avoided as people cannot afford a lump-sum payment so close to Christmas. Some companies, including Rix Petroleum, offer easy-payment plans, which let customers spread their oil payments across the year.

If the right precautions are taken and we support our older relatives and neighbours, then Britain’s elderly can be safe and warm in winter. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune in energy bills.

Rix Petroleum is an independent UK fuel distributor.

This article was written in December 2015. Costs and savings may change so it’s always worth making your own calculations.

If you found this article useful you may like to read:

How to damp proof your parents’ house

Making homes safe from carbon monoxide poisoning

Tips on avoiding electrical danger in the home

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