How to prepare your home for autumn and winter

How to prepare your home for autumn and winter

Last updated: 30/09/2022

With the onset of cold weather, you may be thinking about getting your home ready for winter. Late summer and early autumn are the best times to make sure your property is ship-shape, while the weather’s still warm, and there’s spare time to deal with any problems which may arise.

Here are some simple but essential maintenance tips to brace your property for the cold months ahead.

Get your boiler serviced

Having a boiler break down during the cold months can be a nightmare. Prevention is better than cure, so it may be worth getting your boiler serviced by an engineer on the Gas Safe Register. This will ensure it’s in good working order, and the engineer should hopefully spot any potential issues, which could save you a headache down the line.

For peace of mind should your boiler break down or central heating fail, you could consider taking out home emergency cover as an add-on to your home insurance.

Insulate your boiler and pipes

To make sure your water system isn’t losing heat (and therefore money) unnecessarily, check your tank and pipes are insulated. If they’re not, it’s inexpensive and straightforward to buy and install lagging for both. A hot water cylinder jacket should cost about £17, and you can install it yourself.

Likewise, lagging your pipes involves buying foam tubing from a DIY store and – provided you’ve chosen the right size – it’s just a matter of slipping it onto any exposed piping. Check if there are any exposed pipes in rooms such as the attic, utility room and garage if you have one.

Not only should this keep your heating bills down, but it will also help to stop water in your pipes from freezing when the temperature drops. Frozen water in your pipes can cause them to burst, which can prove costly and stressful.

If you’re going away during a potential cold snap, the alternative is to set your heating on a timer. A couple of hours of heating a day should be enough to prevent your pipes from freezing. However, as many are trying to avoid spending money on heating unless necessary this winter, making sure your pipes are insulated could be the better option.

Bleed your radiators

If your radiators aren’t heating up properly, or are warm at the bottom but cold at the top, the chances are the heat isn’t circulating properly. This is usually because of trapped air. In this case, you need to bleed your radiators, which is easy enough to do.

First off, work out which radiators need bleeding. Then turn off the heating, and wait until they’re cold. Start with the one furthest from the boiler.

Hold something to catch water beneath the bleed valve (and have a towel on hand too), insert the bleed key, and turn it anticlockwise. There should be a hissing sound. When water begins to escape, turn the key back clockwise to tighten the valve.

Do the same for your other radiators, working your way towards the boiler. When you’re done, turn the heating back on to see if they’re all working properly. And that’s it! 

You can find instructional videos that show you each of the above steps to successfully bleed your radiators on YouTube.

Clear your drains and gutters

Your home’s guttering is likely to accumulate a lot of leaves and debris over the autumn, which could lead to a blockage. To give your gutters the best chance of draining properly, clear out any mulch, stones and moss, and make sure that the guttering isn’t cracked.

Know where your stopcock is

Your stopcock (also known as a stop valve) controls the flow of water. It’s useful to know where it is in case of emergencies, such as burst pipes. You can turn off the house’s cold water entirely if needs be, which will help prevent things getting any worse.

The stopcock looks like a tap without a spout, or a lever. It may also have a ‘W’ or a water symbol on it. It’s most commonly found under the kitchen sink. But if it’s not there, check near the boiler or under the stairs. It might even be outside in some properties. If you still can’t find it, ask a neighbour, as theirs is likely to be in a similar spot.

Have a power-cut plan

Winter is the worst time for power cuts, which you’ll be all too familiar with if you live somewhere fairly remote. To make sure you’re prepared for a sudden blackout, it’s a good idea to have a plan and a list of useful items at the ready.

Here are a few things to keep handy for your power cut kit:

  • A battery-powered or wind-up torch
  • Nice warm blankets
  • A vacuum flask or hot water bottle to fill up
  • Spare set of batteries
  • Power pack to charge phones and devices
  • Food that can be prepared without using electricity

If the power does go off, avoid opening appliances such as the fridge, to make sure you’re keeping the cold in.

To report the power cut, phone the National Grid on 105. They will give you updates on when your power should come back on. Don’t call your energy supplier, as they’re not responsible for the power lines connected to your home.

Finally, go and check on the neighbours – especially if they’re vulnerable, and could use a bit of help.

Have the right level of home insurance

To make sure you’re fully prepared for winter, see that your home insurance policy offers a sufficient level of cover for your needs. Check the policy document to see that you’re covered in the event of damage caused by flooding or adverse weather, for instance.

And while hopefully nothing will go wrong, it’s good to have your insurance provider’s contact details handy in case you require their help, or need to make a claim.

For more useful tips to make sure you’re making the best out of your property, find out how to make your home more energy efficient here.

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