Winter is coming
Image courtesy of Sky Atlantic
Winter is coming and “in the winter, we must protect ourselves”, in the words of Ned Stark from Game of Thrones.
This iconic phrase of warning isn’t just helpful advice for the Starks. It’s useful for tradespeople looking to prepare homeowners for the harsh weather to come.
In November 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that there would be 24,300 winter deaths.
It also reported that 15% more deaths occur in the winter months than other times of year. And respiratory diseases caused one-third of winter deaths in 2015/16, which can develop from the common cold and drops in temperature.
To prepare correctly, tradespeople must encourage consumers to “winter proof” their homes now, to avoid small faults developing into larger issues.
Pressure points: statistics and facts
- Boilers are one of the most expensive items in the home to replace or repair.
- A broken down boiler costs an average of £344 to fix.
- A new boiler can cost upwards of £2,000 including labour.
- Many homeowners don’t give their boiler a second’s thought until it lets them down.
10 million homeowners pay out £1bn a year on boiler cover
Source: This is Money, 2016.
Winter way back when
Central heating provides warmth to the whole interior of a building from one point to multiple rooms.
But how was it developed into what it is today?
The ancient Greeks were said to develop central heating for the temple of Ephesus, which was heated by flues planted in the ground that circulated heat generated by fire.
Then, in the 13th century, the Cistercian monks revived central heating in Europe using river diversions combined with indoor wood-fired furnaces.
The three main methods of modern central heating were developed in the 18th-19th centuries.
- Hot air – Stove heated air brought from the outside by an underground passage that was ventilated through buildings by large central ducts.
- Steam – A system of pipes carried high-pressure steam around a building from a central boiler through a system of pipes.
- Hot water – A distribution of low-pressure water was pushed through small pipes at high pressure, which led to the creation of radiators.
The earliest form of radiator was invented between 1855 – 1857 by Polish-born businessman Franz San Galli.
Keep the heat on for homeowners
Trust is everything in the HVAC industry and you can share your expert advice to build it amongst consumers.
We’d recommend sharing this advice with homeowners:
Avoid boiler breakdown
- Check heating is working regularly.
- Check your boiler is on and if your gas and electricity supply is working. Is your boiler’s pilot light on?
- Review your boiler instructions.
- Check your pressure.
- Bleed your radiators.
- Insulate your condensate pipe if you have one.
- Thaw your condensate pipe.
- Get your boiler serviced.
Reduce energy costs
- Insulate your attic to retain heat.
- Seal cracks around windows, on perimeter walls and at electric outlets on exterior walls.
- Consider insulated glass windows.
- Turn off the lights.
- Use lighting controls.
- Unplug electronics.
- Use power strips.
- Close curtains and blinds at night to protect against drafts.
Reminder: Avoid plumbing problems
In addition to keeping the warmth in for homeowners, it’s important to keep the water out.
Help consumers steer clear of frozen pipework or clogged up drains by sharing this advice:
Protect your pipes
- Prevent pipes from freezing by insulating them.
- Heat pipes by wrapping them with approved heat tape.
- Prevent pipes from bursting with pipe lagging.
- Allow the faucet to drip slightly to relieve pressure in systems.
- Keep pipe cabinet doors closed to retain warmth.
- Keep up the average temperature of your pipes.
- Check the water stop tap.
- Drain the central heating and water pipes if you’re going to be away from the building.
Fend off floods
- If you live in a flood-risk area prepare, prepare, prepare.
- Fill bin liners with soil and pack them in front of external doors.
- Invest in non-return valves for toilets.
- Consider purchasing airbrick covers.
- Clear your gutters.
- Check the gutters that service your drainpipes.
- Clear drains of leaves, moss and other blockages.
- Be careful about where you pile up snow from cleared paths and driveways.
According to the Association of British Insurers, 3,500 claims have been recorded for burst pipe damage during freezing weather – costing the average household £7,000.
Don’t get caught out in the cold
Whilst your main focus will be on protecting your customers this winter, it’s equally as important to protect yourself against the elements.
Most recently we’ve seen Storm Aileen batter Britain with 75mph winds, causing power cuts and travel chaos.
And as the chill and icy conditions kick in, and if you’re regularly traveling to and from different locations, it’s essential to be aware of winter road safety.
To keep your van in top tip condition CORGI Vans recommends following these steps:
- Check that your van battery is in good condition – and many garages offer free checks.
- Ensure you have adequate pressure in your tyres.
- Check your tyre treads which should ideally be at least 3mm deep to give you maximum grip.
- Switch to winter tyres if you live and operate in an area that is prone to poor conditions.
- Ensure you have the appropriate level of engine coolant and antifreeze.
- Stock up on windscreen washer and consider increasing the concentration to prevent water from freezing.
- Check your windscreen wipers, as winter brings increased dirt, grit and salt on roads.
And, you’ll need to ensure you have the key winter essentials in your van, too.
CORGI Vans advises carrying these key items:
- An ice scrapper and de-icer.
- A shovel.
- Jump leads.
- A towrope.
- An old roll of carpet – to use under van wheels to prevent skidding.
- A torch with working batteries.
- A blanket – in case you’re caught outside for longer than expected.
- Boots / wellies and cold weather clothing – in case you need to walk to get help.
- A mobile phone and car phone charger.
- A first aid kit.
Combating the condensation conundrum
Cold and wet weather during the winter is a leading cause of condensation and damp, which if left untreated, can lead to mould.
And, damp and mould can rot timber frames and furniture and spread across curtains and upholstery.
It’s an urban myth that installing new double-glazing will eliminate condensation problems in the home. Unless a few rules are followed, condensation and mould growth can become a serious problem.
So what is condensation and how is it caused?
- Moisture is always in the air, even if you cannot see it.
- When the air gets colder it cannot hold all the moisture so tiny drops of water appear, which is condensation.
- Condensation occurs mainly during cold weather, whether it’s raining or dry.
- It appears in places where there is little movement of air, such as corners, on or near windows, behind wardrobes and cupboards and on north-facing walls.
Advice for homeowners
To help homeowners manage condensation issues, CORGI Fenestration recommends installers share four simple tips.
1. Produce less moisture
Many ordinary daily activities produce a lot of moisture, quickly. To reduce this, homeowners can:
- Cover pans and stop leaving kettles boiling when cooking.
- If you use paraffin and portable flue-less bottled-gas heaters that produce a lot of moisture and condensation, consider using an alternative means of heating.
- Close bathroom doors and ensure extractor fans are on or windows are open when having showers or baths to allow damp air to escape.
- Dry clothes outdoors. If this isn’t possible, ensure doors are closed and windows are open in this room, or alternatively, use a tumble dryer that is vented to the outside.
2. Provide appropriate ventilation
Ventilation is key when it comes to removing access moisture.
To ventilate a property without making draughts, homeowners can:
- Keep small windows ajar or trickle vents open all the time, if possible, especially when rooms are occupied.
- Ensure kitchen and bathroom windows are open or extractor fans and vents to the outside are installed.
- Close kitchen and bathroom doors when the rooms are in use.
- Allow space for air to circulate in and around furniture and leave space between the backs of wardrobes and walls.
- Install dehumidifiers to help dry out damp in newly built houses.
3. Insulate and draught-proof rooms
Insulation in lofts, cavity wall insulation and draught proofing windows and outside doors will help keep homes warm and can lower fuel bills. And, when the whole home is warmer, condensation is less likely to occur.
When installing draught proofing, ensure:
- Permanent ventilators are not blocked.
- Chimneys are not blocked.
- Rooms that have a fuel-burning heater are not draught-proofed.
- Windows in bathrooms and kitchens are not draught-proofed.
4. Heat homes a little more
The best way to minimise the amount of condensation produced in homes is to keep low background heating on all day.
This is particularly important in flats and bungalows where the bedrooms are not above a warm living area.
Key tips to remember:
- Central heating should be set to provide background warmth in all rooms, including unused rooms.
- Thermostatically-controlled heating will help control heating and costs.
- Background ventilation should be provided at the same time as heating.
For more information from CORGI Fenestration, click here.