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Keeping your home warm: for your health and the planet

profile picture of Elizabeth Rogers
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
17 November 2021

We’re entering the colder months of the year in the UK, and with that comes increased risks to our health. But with rising energy costs, you may be more cautious to turn up the thermostat this year. Here I’ll look at how you can keep your home warm while keeping your energy bills down.

Health effects of cold homes

Cold temperatures are known to directly increase the risk of:

A cold home can also have an effect on mental health. It can cause stress and make depression worse. There are certain groups of people that are at greater risk of these effects. These include older people (over the age of 65) and children under the age of five. People who have existing health conditions, such as heart disease or asthma, are also more at risk.

How cold is too cold in a house?

Keeping your home heated to at least 18°C, in addition to wearing suitable clothing, will keep health risks to a low. For some people - including older people or those with health conditions – temperatures slightly above this (around 21°C) may be more beneficial for health.

Temperatures below 18°C are linked to increases in blood pressure and a higher risk of blood clots. These are both things that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Breathing in cold air can also increase your risk of chest infections. And symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma are often worse in lower temperatures.

The advice is particularly important for people aged 65 and over, and those with medical conditions. Older people can be less able to respond to changes in temperatures quickly. If you’re under 65, you’re active and you’re wearing warm clothing you may find a lower temperature in your home is enough. It’s also not as important to keep the temperature at 18°C overnight if you’re under 65. Make sure you have adequate bedding and clothing though!

How to keep warm at home for less

There’s clearly good reason for keeping your home warm this winter. But how can you keep warm in an inexpensive way? Here are some solutions for making sure you keep warm at home.

  • Use draught excluders for your doors.
  • Close curtains as soon as it gets dark to prevent losing heat through your windows.
  • Move furniture and curtains away from radiators so as not to obstruct them.
  • Set your heating to come on just before you get up (or come home), and to go off just before you go to bed. If it’s really cold, it’s better to keep it set to stay on for longer rather than turning it up higher.
  • If you have them, use thermostatic valves on your radiators to control the temperature of individual rooms. Set radiators in rooms you’re not using on low. And keep the doors closed in the rooms you are using so you don’t lose the heat.
  • Make sure your heating system is working as efficiently as it can be, by bleeding your radiators when you need to. This means releasing trapped air bubbles from the system.
  • Layer up – wearing lots of thin layers can help you to keep your body heat.
  • Use an electric blanket or hot water bottle to keep warm (but never use both at the same time).
  • Don’t stay sitting in one position for too long when you’re at home. Regularly moving around will help to keep you warm.
  • Have plenty of hot foods and drinks. This will help to keep you warm and your energy levels up.

Home improvements

Some changes take more time and money. But if you’re able to, they can make a big difference to your home energy efficiency in the long run. One of the most important things you can do is making sure your home is well insulated. A well-insulated home keeps the heat for longer. That means you can have the heating on for less time, saving energy and money. Common ways to insulate your home include loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and draught-proofing windows and doors.

You could also look at upgrading your heating controls to better manage your heating. Newer smart heating controls allow you to manage your central heating remotely, through an app. You may find it easier to control your heating this way, potentially leading to some energy savings.

See our Helpful websites section below for more information on these measures.

Anthony Flatt, Bupa’s Energy Manager, also has a couple of tips to help you keep your home warm.

“It’s important to get your household heating system properly serviced. This will make sure that your heating system is working well. A qualified heating engineer will be able to check the whole system is working as it should be. Most manufacturers suggest these checks and servicing should take place every 12 months. They can also carry out the essential safety checks.

“If your radiators are warm at the top but cold at the bottom, this indicates that your heating system isn’t working as well as it could. Radiators can fill up with ‘sludge’ over time. This is easily solved by using a liquid called ‘inhibitor’. This prevents the build-up of sludge. Again, this service can be carried out by the heating engineer.”

Financial support

It’s worth checking whether you’re eligible for any grants or benefits. You may be able to get support in making your home more energy efficient and help with heating bills. The websites listed below have more information on this.

Helpful websites

  • Simple Energy Advice
    Government-endorsed advice on making your home more energy efficient, and financial assistance available.
    www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy
    Charity providing advice on energy saving tips and home improvements.
    www.cse.org.uk
  • Age UK
    Charity providing support to older people, with advice on keeping warm and well this winter.
    www.ageuk.org.uk
profile picture of Elizabeth Rogers
Dr Elizabeth Rogers
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

    • The cold weather plan for England. UK Health Security Agency. gov.uk, October 2021
    • Minimum home temperature thresholds for health in winter – a systematic literature review. Public Health England. www.gov.uk, published October 2014
    • Top tips for keeping warm and well. UK Health Security Agency. www.gov.uk, last updated 30 October 2020
    • Cold homes and health. Centre for Sustainable Energy. www.cse.org.uk, accessed 8 November 2021
    • Central heating controls. Centre for Sustainable Energy. www.cse.org.uk, accessed 8 November 2021
    • Make your home warmer. Simple Energy Advice. www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk, accessed 8 November 2021
    • Home energy grants. Simple Energy Advice. www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk, accessed 8 November 2021

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