Keep elderly relatives warm this winter with these heating maintenance tips. by Steph Staszko
With energy bills rising and the harsh winter weather drawing in, a safe, efficient central heating system is essential. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), the cost of home heating in America is set to increase by over 11% this winter.
The cold weather can be a particular hazard for older people, who may be more vulnerable to cold-related illnesses and are perhaps less able to meet expensive fuel costs. Given that around 40% of Americans aged over 65 already spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, says AgingStats.gov, it’s set to be a difficult winter for many.
Heating Maintenance Checklist
If you have older relatives there are some simple things you can do to make sure their heating system is in good shape. Check out these top tips to help keep your relatives warm and healthy throughout winter without paying a fortune in fuel costs:
· Install a Modern Heating System – although it can be expensive, it’s always best to update any heating system that’s over ten years old. New boilers are now manufactured to high standards of efficiency and are therefore cheaper to run and more eco-friendly.
· Service the Boiler – the best way to make sure that a heating system is safe and running as efficiently as possible (therefore saving money on fuel bills) is to schedule a boiler service check. For safety reasons, maintenance checks should always be carried out by a qualified engineer at least once a year. During a boiler service, the engineer will check whether any heating repairs or maintenance work is required and ensure that the system is running safely. One of the key things an engineer will check for is carbon monoxide leaks. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, invisible substance which can cause serious illness and even death when inhaled over periods of time; so in addition to having your boiler serviced it’s a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector.
· Plug up Draughts – even if your relative’s property is well insulated, gaps around doors, windows, letter boxes, chimneys and even cat flaps can make the building cold and increase heating bills considerably. Persistent draughts can also have serious health implications, particularly for older, more vulnerable people. The good news is that draught proofing is a quick, cheap and easy task to carry out; all you need are some draught proofing strips, a tube of sealant or some compression seals. However, it’s important when draught proofing not to block essential ventilation points, so hire a professional draught proofer if you’re in doubt.
· Set the Thermostat – it’s hard to get the right temperature in a property if you have to keep turning the heating up and down manually; this method of heating control may not physically be possible for older or disabled people too. The answer is to make sure a good quality, electronic heating thermostat is installed. Set the timer according to the temperature needs and habits of your relative so they don’t have to worry about a thing; the heating comes on automatically and the property is never left to get stone cold.
· Bleed Radiators – air or gunk in a central heating system can affect the performance of radiators or even stop them from producing any heat at all. This means heating bills will rocket, even though your relative’s home never gets any warmer. To avoid this it’s a good idea to bleed radiators at the start of the heating season, or get a qualified engineer to do this for you. Bleeding radiators will remove air bubbles and gunk, but if pipes are blocked too then the entire central heating system may need to be flushed.
· Get Insulated – there’s no point turning up the heating and installing an efficient boiler in an un-insulated property – all the expensive heat that’s generated will simply leak straight out the building, increasing the household carbon emissions and fuel bills considerably. So, make sure that the property has adequate loft, wall and floor insulation installed.
· Clean the Chimney – if your relative has a working fireplace it should be cleaned by a professional at least once a year to remove any blockages. Chimney blockages can be extremely dangerous; they can potentially cause fires as well as poisoning from smoke and co2.
Get Help with Heating Costs
Those who are particularly struggling to pay their fuel bills can apply for financial help from the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIPHEAP). This scheme awards grants to cover an average of 38% of a households winter fuel costs, says the NEADA.