Avoid Christmas heating disasters at home with these top tips

Mass boiler breakdowns are predicted this week as freezing temperatures hit the UK. We asked British Gas for its top tips to avoid heating disasters before the big day

According to British Gas, the last week of November is anticipated to be the worst for boilers breaking down across the country. Which isn't ideal timing with Christmas just around corner, is it?!

'This is set to be the busiest week for boiler breakdowns across the country, according to our HomeCare data,’ reveals Matthew Bateman, Managing Director for Field Operations at British Gas.

The energy and services company predicts its team of engineers will visit more than 79,000 homes this week to help fix problems with heating or hot water, a 34 per cent increase on the previous week. British Gas has already seen a 40 per cent increase in engineer visits throughout November compared to October. Yikes!

Related: How to keep your house warm in winter

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(Image credit: Future PLC/ Maxwell Attenborough)

Despite the high likelihood of boiler breakdowns this week, recent research* from British Gas reveals more than a third of households have not checked that their central heating is working properly. Worse, four in ten have not had their boiler serviced in preparation for winter. So what can we do to avoid any potential problems?

Top tips to help households stay one step ahead this winter

1. Bleed your radiators

Bleeding radiators will ensure they are working properly. If your radiators have cold spots at the top, this means you have air in the system. You will need to bleed them to get them working efficiently again.

To do this, read How to bleed a radiator: our step-by-step guide

Cold spots in the bottom or centre of the radiator may be an indication of sludge build up and the need for system flushing. Bleeding your radiator may result in pressure dropping. If you have a pressure gauge, make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary.

bathroom with grey brick wall towel rail and magazines hanged on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Maxwell Attenborough)

2. Love your boiler

Check the boiler is working properly before winter sets in. The older your boiler, the more inefficient it will be. If you have a pressure gauge make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary.

3. Block the breeze

Make sure all of your windows and doors seal properly to stop warm air escaping. For those that don’t, fitting a draught excluder, which you can buy from most DIY stores, is a quick and cheap way to cut down on your energy bills.

4. Stay safe with a CO alarm

It’s vital to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted and that you test it regularly. With the central heating on and fires being lit, winter is an especially important time to do so.

blue and white steel bucket with wooden materials paper cloth and box

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Maxwell Attenborough)

5. Wrap up the water tank to insulate hot water

The materials can be purchased from most DIY stores and help to conserve heat and save you money.

6. Insulate your pipes to stop them from bursting

Burst pipes are a huge issue during winter months, and one of the most dreaded potential disasters. To help prevent burst pipes, ensure all pipes are properly insulated by using lagging, which can be bought cheaply from most DIY shops.

7. Budget better with a smart meter

Why not speak to your energy supplier about a smart meter? You’ll be able to see how much energy you’re using, in pounds and pence, with a smart meter monitor. In turn this helps you to better understand your energy consumption and identify where you can make savings. That way, you won't run out of funds to heat up your home during the festive season.

8. Maintain your drains

If you're trying to keep your drains outside well maintained, it's a good idea to make sure they are clear of debris at the point at which they enter the ground. This involves checking your gullies for autumnal leaves and twigs in order to ensure that they don't restrict water flow at any point.

9. Take out insurance for extra peace of mind

Several companies offer specific protection for your boiler, heating, electrics and plumbing, helping you to keep your home a step ahead of winter. With British Gas HomeCare, for example, you can have your boiler serviced every year, and it will cost less than 40p a day.

* The research was undertaken by Atomik Research on behalf of British Gas between 29th September – 4th October 2017, on a sample of 3,006 UK adults with gas appliances in accordance with MRS guidelines and regulations.

Millie Hurst
Senior Content Editor

Millie Hurst was Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home from 2020-2022, and is now Section Editor at Homes & Gardens. Before stepping into the world of interiors, she worked as a Senior SEO Editor for News UK in both London and New York. You can usually find her looking up trending terms and finding real-life budget makeovers our readers love. Millie came up with the website's daily dupes article which gives readers ways to curate a stylish home for less.