There were more than 34,000 “excess deaths” across England and Wales over the last winter period – the second highest level in eight years – and as temperatures begin to plunge, the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) is calling for homeowners in Yorkshire and Humber to prepare their homes for winter to keep safe and warm, and avoid paying out for costly repairs and high heating bills.
Graham Ellis, RICS Associate Director Residential said: “The winter weather can wreak havoc on a home, resulting in all kinds of avoidable repairs; from freezing pipes, flooding and damp, blocked air vents; to broken windows and cracked roofs. To avoid such damage, think roof, walls, gutters and downpipes, floors, windows, doors – and even the garden if you have one – then repair, seal, insulate and secure where ever possible.”
Graham says energy saving measures need not cost the earth, and his top tips include:
- Firstly, stop wasting energy: Where possible, turn off the radiators in rooms that aren’t in use. But make sure you keep the doors shut too, so that the heat from the rooms you’re using doesn’t escape.
- Draft proof/seal gaps around windows & doors: Cracks and gaps around doors and windows can leak heat, so seal these up too using inexpensive insulating strips or even blankets. Fit a cover over a letterbox and where possible, adding thicker curtains – or lining your current curtains – in the windows will provide optimal warmth too.
- Service your boiler & keep pipes toasty A poorly maintained boiler wastes more energy and costs more, so get it serviced or change your old model for a condensing unit, which could shave off around £235 (according to the Energy Saving Trust) a year. Meanwhile, insulate pipes with a cheap foam cardigan (called lagging) to stop them from freezing.
- Reflect radiator heat: If you have radiators on external walls, line them with aluminum foil to reflect the heat back into the room instead of letting it escape through the wall. You can use ordinary kitchen foil, but heat reflector aluminium foil sheets (also called radiator reflector panels) are far more effective and cost from around £8. Also ensure you bleed your radiators if they are colder at the top than they are the bottom. This will release the trapped air by bleeding them to ensure they run more efficiently.
- Insulate: There are many simple, yet effective ways to insulate your home – which aren’t too costly – and can significantly reduce heat loss while lowering your heating bills. Take a look at the Energy Saving Trust’s website for a range of options – including insulating your loft or attic – along with their benefits: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-insulation.
- Prepare/restore the exterior of your home: Repair any loose or cracked tiles and consider fitting a chimney balloon (from around £20 online) as it stops warm air going up your chimney and draughts coming back down. Remove any blockages of leaves and debris from your gutters and drainpipes too, as once the blockage becomes too much, water may leak in to the roof and down the walls of the house, causing damp. Also ensure that wall surface materials and pointing is weatherproof.
- Garden: Repair and secure fences, sheds and gates to prevent gale force winds from blowing them in to your home, and causing costly damage.
Graham adds: “Following these tips not only help you to keep warmer, safer and at less risk of paying out for costly repairs, but they’ll also reduce your energy bills along the way.”
“If in any doubt about how to prepare your home for winter, a local RICS surveyor can assess the state of your property by undertaking an RICS Home Condition Report. This will uncover any problems that may require varying degrees of attention and the surveyor will be able to provide advice on how to rectify and such issues.”
To find a surveyor in your local area visit www.ricsfirms.com And for those that live in flood risk areas, RICS has created a free publication designed to help homeowners prevent and deal with the consequences of flooding. To download a copy visit: www.rics.org/flooding