The Danish have a word for it – hygge: a sensation of especial cosiness and charm. It’s what all our homes should be in winter … and our home maintenance checklist will help you make sure that as the cold weather arrives, your home is at optimum hyggeness.
How to keep your house warm in the winter
Home insulation is easier than you think
A well-insulated home isn’t just warm and cosy, it’s a money-saver, and a maintenance reducer too.
Insulating your loft doesn’t just keep it warmer in winter. It also ensures that your home remains cooler in summer. While actually installing insulation may be a job you prefer to leave to the professionals, we’re all very capable of checking our insulation levels. The current recommended depth for ‘loft insulation on a roll’ is between 250 and 270 mm and a trip up the loft ladder with a ruler can help you establish whether you’re up to date or still have the older insulation materials which can be as thin as 100mm.
Given how many people Google ‘how to make my house warmer’ every winter, it’s clear that many of us live in properties that are less than optimally insulated and there are several simple things we can do ourselves to insulate better, for example:
- Suss out your water heater cylinder. While on demand water heaters and pre-insulated water heaters shouldn’t be insulated, older style water cylinders will always perform better if they’re given an insulation jacket. This is a simple process than even a novice DIY-er can undertake. Buy a jacket from your local DIY store and wrap it around your hot water cylinder. *Only recommend insulating the hot water cylinder with a jacket
- Lag your water pipes. If you’ve insulated your loft floor, remember that this can leave your water pipes in a colder space than previously, meaning they are more likely to freeze. Plumbing itself might be a professional job but insulating your plumbing is within the scope of any householder. Prevent problems by using insulation (called lagging), which usually comes in the form of foam tubes (minimum diameter 20mm) that you can simply slide over the pipes to help them retain their heat and protect them from the effect of external temperatures.
- Consider the length of your condensate pipe. The condensate pipe for your boiler may have an external section (not all do) that can easily freeze in winter – this means the condensate trap stops draining and your boiler will stop working until the pipe thaws. Not a happy prospect. If this pipe is exterior and if it is less than 32mm in diameter, it should be insulated with type ‘O’ insulation to prevent this problem occurring. If you run into a problem, we have a handy how-to video on how to thaw a condensate pipe.
While it’s not exactly insulation, heat reflective sheets (or just simply tinfoil) placed behind radiators, can increase the amount of heat transferred back into the room.
Smother your draughts
Draughts around windows and doors make our homes chillier and increase our heating costs. Draughty windows and doors can be easily discovered by carefully moving a lit candle around the edge of the frame and noticing when the flame is drawn towards you (inwards draft), or away from you (outwards draft).
Now seal the cracks by adding foam strips to windows and don’t forget your letterbox which is a major draught creator!
Letterbox brushes can be purchased from every DIY shop and reduce the risk of chilly air currents entering your home.
Draft excluders along the bottom of both internal and external doors can add warmth and comfort to your property and even look stylish!
Winter maintenance tasks for any householder
Bleed your radiators
Bleeding radiators might sound a bit drastic, but it’s actually really easy to do and can save a fortune in heating bills.
- To begin, turn on your central heating and once it reaches temperature, run your hands over every radiator, taking care not to burn yourself, to check if any of them have any cold patches. Often cold spots near the top of the radiator will be because there is trapped air or gas inside it, preventing full efficiency.
- Turn off the heating and wait for the radiators to cool completely before using a bleed key to release any trapped air.
- Use safety gloves to protect yourself from any heat that might remain in the system and then hold a old cloth under the valve and insert the key into the valve at the top of the radiator and turn gently. If there is trapped gas or air, you will hear it rushing out of the valve.
- Continue to listen carefully and when the sound changes, you’ll know the water in the radiator is nearly at the valve and it’s time to tighten the bleed key again.
- Putting an old towel down around the base of the radiator will help ensure that if you don’t quite time it perfectly, you spill any water on the floor.
- Be careful not to over-tighten your radiator valve as you close it, as that can damage your radiator. when you turn your radiator on again, you’ll find it’s toasty warm from top to bottom.
Winterising your exterior
Preparing home for winter also includes looking at the exterior of your home where weather damage might be a consideration, from loose roof tiles to tree branches in the garden or street, it’s wise to tackle these tasks now while the weather is still relatively mild.
Water damage is a potential risk too, and clearing gutters is a great way to prevent this –
- Use a stabilised ladder, a bucket and trowel to clear any debris from your guttering. An ‘S’ hook can be used to hang your bucket from the ladder in order to keep both hands free.
- Wear thick rubber gloves to make sure you’re not exposing your hands to any unpleasant substances.
- Once any leaves and debris have been removed, you can use a hosepipe to thoroughly clear away any residue.
- Fit covers over drain holes to prevent a build-up of leaves or mud that could block the drain and lead to damp rising up your exterior wall.
So there you have it, warm, safe, cosy and hygge – a house that is ready for winter!