How to avoid common winter problems in your home - from broken boilers to mould
With the nation currently gripped by icy temperatures, houses can suffer a number of problems.
Here is some expert advice on simple steps you can take to stay safe and warm at home and avoid common winter problems with your property.
One of the most common problems is frozen or burst pipes, meaning no water in the home.
Emily Brady, from Yorkshire Water, says: “If you turn your tap on to find no water, you might have a frozen pipe.
"First, check all exposed pipes for any leaks or bursts, if you can't see anything then turn the tap on at your kitchen sink and heat the pipe with a hairdryer. Never ever use a naked flame to defrost a pipe.”
Sunny Solanki, a British Gas engineer, says: We often come across frozen condensate pipes – which don’t actually require specialist training to fix.
“During the Beast from the East in 2018, frozen pipes were our engineers' most common call out issue.
“The best solution is to stop the water inside your hot water pipes from freezing in the first place – water expands when it turns to ice, which can lead to burst or damaged pipes.
"Insulating materials are an easy, cost-effective solution, available from most DIY stores – if you keep your water system nice and cosy, it will do the same for you.”
Peeling paint and draughts
A survey by heating industry website heatingforce.co.uk found 73 per cent of residents suffer peeling paint in winter, while two-thirds suffer from draughts.
Alex Ion, from heatingforce.co.uk, said: “Once paint has cracked or peeled, it’s only a matter of time before moisture will appear and begin to cause damage to your home.”
Recommendations to prevent it include proper insulation, moisture barriers and sufficient ventilation to reduce condensation, the primary cause of peeling paint.
Special paint formulated for cold weather is also available.
Regarding draughts, Mr Solanki said: “You wouldn’t leave the back door open when the heating’s on, but warm air could still be escaping without you realising – and cold air could be sneaking in!
“Draught excluders are available from most DIY stores, and they’re an easy and affordable way to draught-proof your home.
"As well as sealing the joins around your doors and windows, don’t overlook extra measures like letterbox brushes, chimney balloons and even keyhole coverings."
More seriously, according to the survey, more than half of residents suffer from mould in their homes.
Mr Ion said: “Winter creates the ideal environment for mould to grow in our homes, with 56 per cent of people having had this issue.
Controlling moisture is the key to controlling mould, so make sure there is good air circulation in your home.
Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking and washing the dishes. Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.
Regular servicing is recommended to help prevent boiler problems.
Mr Solanki said: “Like a car that hasn’t started for a while, your boiler can seize up if it’s not turned on for an extended period of time.
"It’s a good idea to run your central heating for at least an hour a day during the colder months – even if you’re going away – to make sure it keeps running smoothly.”
Other tips to stay safe and warm
Other top tips to stay warm and safe at home include bleeding your radiators. Mr Solanki says: “Air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently” - and “furnishing for warmth”.
He added: “Think about where your heat sources are, and make sure your radiators can do their job properly.
"Putting your sofa in front of a radiator may keep the best spot in the house extra toasty, but it will absorb heat that could be warming the rest of the room.
“Curtains and rugs have an important part to play as well. Thick material - the thicker the better - prevents heat from being lost through windows and doors.”