Preparing for winter

As we approach Christmas and the new year, and all that this entails, you’ll probably be working towards a few festive gatherings of your own. Be aware that your home’s plumbing system will be putting in overtime to handle all the extra cooking, flushing, showering, and washing, on top of the additional strain from the colder weather.

At Staunch and Flow, we advise all homeowners to make sure their plumbing system is geared up for the holidays. Before the really cold weather arrives, you can avoid calling out your plumber if you prepare your plumbing for the winter. Check your heating works before the very cold weather sets in, which is when plumbers and heating engineers are in short supply.

  • Secure Outdoor Lines

Disconnect all hoses and sprinkler systems in the fall. If you can, isolate your garden tap inside the house then leave the tap open to drain the pipework and allow expansion over winter. Ensure that outdoor spigots and fixtures are clear of leaks before the weather turns cold. Insulate any exposed pipes, outside or in the loft, with sleeves or wrapping, including those in your garage or crawl space.  Cheap foam insulation can be bought from any DIY shop.

  • Clear Your Gutters

Ensure that rain water has an unrestricted flow so it doesn’t collect on your roof or gutters. Be sure to regularly clear out leaves as they accumulate throughout the fall.

  • Prep Your Bathroom

Having extra guests, and plenty of opportunities for downing a few glasses of mulled wine, spiced cider and other beverages means your house plumbing system stays busy. Try to spread out your showers throughout the day, and clear your shower head of mineral deposits using a store-bought limescale remover to avoid a false decrease in pressure.

  • Prep Your Kitchen

Always avoid pouring cooking oil down your kitchen sink. Likewise, don’t block your garbage disposal with stringy foods or fruit pips. If water pressure can be an issue, you could run the dishwasher overnight to preserve it when your house guests might want to wash.

  • Have Your Boiler/Water Heater Inspected

Don’t risk a leaky or broken pipe when you should be carving up that turkey; keep your heating and plumbing ready for double duty. A professional inspection is the best way to ensure that your heating and water systems last through the winter.

  • Regular Servicing 

It is important to hire a Gas Safe-registered engineer to service your boiler at least once every twelve months. This should identify any potential faults which could lead to a system malfunction.

  • Insulate Pipework

To avoid boiler malfunction it is advisable to insulate any pipework that’s exposed (even in loft space) – this includes the condensate drain, as well as cold/hot pipework. Make sure that water tanks in the loft are covered in close-fitting insulation. This has a tendancy to fall off and needs checking annually.

  • Check Your Radiators

While your heating is off, bleed all the radiators in your property (especially those at the highest points of your system), to avoid cold spots and air locks. This will make your heating more efficient. If you need one, pop to the local hardware shop for a radiator key. Have a clean rag and a small tray with you to catch any run-off. Ensure that when the system is on, heat is being distributed evenly across the surface area of the radiator. If it isn’t, then power flushing the system is recommended.

  • Efficient Running

Fit a programmable room thermostat to operate the system effectively in cold weather. This will give you more control, with the heating reacting to room temperature and your timer settings rather than just a simple on/off timer for the entire system.

  • Agas And Rayburns

If you are going away, leave the Rayburn on and turn on the heating side on your return. If you have a room stat, turn it down to between 5-10 degrees. If you don’t have a room stat, we would strongly recommend having one fitted – you’ll realise considerable savings and make your property much more comfortable to live in. The hot water side can be turned off. If you have an AGA, then turn the main burner off but leave the pilot on. This will stop condensation building up, as well as keeping the flue warm, so it will light up easily when you come to switch it back on.

  • Take Advantage Of The Sun

Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight in to naturally heat your home. Close the curtains again at night to reduce any drafts, or the room losing warmth via cold single-glazed windows. You can also buy simple plastic-sheet-based double-glazing kits that can be installed around window frames during the colder months. Ensure a close fit all around the frame to reduce cold air leaking in. Install drapes or curtains for an extra insulating layer.

  • Other Leaks To Look Out For

Seal up the gaps where utility pipes run through cut-outs in the walls, use an air bag to close up any chimneys that aren’t being used.

  • Lower The Temperature

When you are at home and awake, keep your thermostat setting as low as is comfortable, but when you’re asleep or out, if turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours you can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. A programmable thermostat can automate this, so you don’t have to remember to do the resetting manually. You can also lower the set temperature for your DHW (Domestic Hot Water) and save some money (as well as slashing the odds of scalding your hands).

  • Fireplace And Chimney Care

Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. An open damper is like a wide-open window in wintertime; it allows warm air to go straight up the chimney. Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible. If you do use a fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly – approximately 3cm – and close any doors leading to the room. You can also lower any room thermostat to less than 19°C.

  • Less Rooms Is More

If you have rooms you don’t need to use, turn off the heating in them and stay out of them unless necessary. And in the rooms that you will still be using, follow these steps: In the bedroom , change your duvet from a thinner summer duvet to one with a higher tog rating for winter and you’ll be snug as a bug in a rug – and you’ll sleep better in a well-ventilated and cooler bedroom; In the dressing room, change your wardrobe and get the winter clothing ready to wear  – It’s all too easy to turn up the thermostat up when the first cold snap arrives, but if you have your jumpers and sweatshirts at the ready, it’s simple to save on your bill; In the kitchen or utility room, if you have a second fridge for keeping drinks cold, use the garage or garden in winter instead. Fridges are one of the biggest fixed electricity costs, and switching one off may save you more than you think; And, if you have a dryer or washer/dryer, clean the filter to ensure it’s working as efficiently as possible.