Despite there being slim chances of a white Christmas in most areas, many will still find themselves on the wrong side of the weather over the festive period. The current forecast for Christmas week is ‘unsettled’, with temperatures likely to fall as low as 0C, as colder air arrives from the north. And thousands of people could be left shivering in freezing homes, with more than 2,700 boiler breakdowns expected on Christmas Day alone.
British Gas predicts its engineers will be called out 56,100 times next week to help with broken heating and hot water systems, with 2,700 callouts expected on Christmas Day alone.
With a houseful of guests queueing for the shower and Christmas dinner to get on the table, having no heating or hot water could turn the day everyone’s been looking forward to into one they’d rather forget.
Engineers from British Gas will be working across the country on Christmas Day, prioritising repairs for elderly people, families with young children or those living with an illness or disability.
Joanna Flowers, a British Gas engineer who’s working on Christmas Day, told Express.co.uk: “We only do emergency callouts on the 25th of December, so the people I visit can often be old or vulnerable.
“People think it must be awful working at Christmas but it’s one of the most rewarding days of the year.
Boiler breakdowns: More than 56,000 people will be affected this Christmas period
“My Christmas dinner will still be waiting for me when I get in, and this way I get to experience lots of Christmases with all sorts of different families, instead of just my own.”
“I always tell my customers that preparation is key – there are some really simple steps you can take to help get your house ready for winter and to keep it warm and working.”
How to keep your home warm this Christmas
1. Deck the halls, trim the tree, bleed your radiators:
If you haven’t used the heating for a while, air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently. Make sure your radiators are Christmas-ready by:
Switching them off and when cool, turning a radiator key in the valve at the top to let the air out. Have a rag or a small container to hand so you can catch any drips.
Boiler breakdowns: Some 83 percent of us don’t know how to fix frozen pipes
Keep in mind that bleeding your radiator may cause the system pressure to drop. If you have a pressure gauge on your boiler, give it a quick check and top up as necessary.
Cold spots at the bottom or centre of the radiator may be an indication of sludge build up and the need for system flushing – you might need a British Gas engineer to help you with this.
2. Block the breeze:
Your windows and doors should seal properly but for those that don’t, there are lots of options to help keep cold air out and warm air in.
Fitting draught excluders – available from most DIY stores – is a quick, easy and affordable way to cut down on your energy bills and draught-proof your home. Letterbox brushes, keyhole coverings and even chimney balloons can make a real difference – just don’t forget to make way for Santa on Christmas Eve!
Boiler breakdowns: Joanna Flowers will be on call to fix heating this Christmas
3. Maximise the heat, think about where your heat sources are:
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.
4. Look after your boiler:
Stay ahead of the weather and make sure your boiler’s working properly before your guests arrive.
5. Be energy smart:
It’s inevitable that our energy use will increase when the heating’s on and the fairy lights are twinkling at Christmas, but there’s a simple way to keep track of how much you’re using – and spending.
With a smart meter, you’ll be able to see how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence, helping you to identify where you can make savings during peak energy season. To find out more about smart meters just visit British Gas’s website here.
6. Make the most of soft furnishings:
When hanging your stocking this Christmas, you may also want to consider hanging curtains or placing rugs on hard floors.
These are some of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your home warm during winter.
Thick material (the thicker the better) prevents heat from being lost through windows and doors – just don’t forget to open your curtains during the day so that the sun can do some of the work!
7. Get the help you’re entitled to:
It’s worth finding out if you’re eligible for extra assistance with your energy bills, especially at this time of year.
For some, £140 winter rebates are available through the Warm Home Discount scheme, and face-to-face advice, financial support and grants are available from the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer).
Customers who need an extra hand with the practical side of things can sign up to be on the Priority Services Register for additional services such as different bill formats and advanced warnings if their energy supply is facing disruption.