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Don't let the cost of the cold snowball out of control

Make sure you don't have to pay out more than you should because of the cold weather.

Don't let the cost of the cold snowball out of control

It’s that time of the year again, when Britain’s insurances companies get, ahem, snowed under by holidaymakers, homeowners and motorists.

By avoiding and being prepared for icy conditions you can save a fortune in your home and out on the road.

Homeowners’ horror

We all want to be wrapped up warm indoors when the cold front hits so make sure that your home can withstand the adverse weather.

With gas and electric bills increasing, making the most of your heating is a must, and don’t forget about regular maintenance to make sure the heating is working when the cold spell comes in.

British Gas have some top tips for getting the most out of your heating:

  • Bleed your radiators: if a radiator has a cold spot it means there’s air in the system and you will have to bleed them. To do this, turn the system off and turn the radiator key until the air stops and the water runs consistently.
  • Block breezes: make sure windows and doors are sealed to stop the air escaping or fit draft excluders
  • Curtail with curtains: hang heavy, lined curtains to trap the heat and if you have venetian blinds tilt them so the blades face down, curved side to the room
  • Thermostat; set your thermostat at around 21°C, but remember by reducing your room temperature you can cut your bill by around £60 a year
  • Water tank: if you have a water tank insulate the hot water. It will cost you around £15 but you’ll save £35 on the boiler jacket and £10 on the pipes in the first year
  • Insulate: insulating your loft and walls can save you £145 and £110 a year, respectively
  • Don’t waste heat: fit thermostatic radiator valves so you only heat the rooms you use

If you’re escaping the cold and going on holiday then make sure you take precautions at home, said Paul Havenhand, head of insurance at the Post Office, who recommended keeping drains clear and putting the heating on a timer to go on once a day.

‘As temperatures plummet, homeowners are at risk from frozen water pipes bursting – leaving their property at risk of flooding. There are some simply precautions people can take to minimise damage to their home from the colder temperatures; ensuring loft insulation is sufficiently thick and leaving the heating on a low setting while out of the house will limit the risk of having frozen pipes.

‘People should also ensure their home insurance policy provides them with the level of cover they need. Should  pipes freeze and burst, homeowners should contact their home insurer for assistance immediately.’

What to do if the heating breaks down

If your central heating and hot water stop working then you need to follow these tips:

  1. Check to see that there are no other causes – are the other gas appliances and electric sockets working?
  2. Check isolation switches are on and that the trip switch in the fuse box is on
  3. Check the thermostat, it may be a case of turning it up
  4. Check the appliance controls on the boiler, is the temperature dial up?
  5. Is the boiler pressure between one and two bar? If it is too low, turn the values next to boiler until you see it going up
  6. Reset the boiler’s timer
  7. If you have a pilot light that has gone out, check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how to relight it

Bigger bills

We’re all going to need to use our heating more so brace yourself for an increase in your bills. Comparison site estimates that it will cost an extra £7 a week to heat our homes.

Consumers need to make sure they are on the most competitive rate and that they factor in any increased heating use into their budget so they’re not caught out.

Tom Lyon, energy expert at, said: ‘It costs just over £3 a day on average to heat a home, but during a severe cold snap this could easily rise by £1 a day. If freezing weather sets in for a month, it’s perfectly feasible for households to see an extra £30 added onto their next energy bill and this will be a real struggle for some.

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7 comments so far. Why not have your say?


Jan 21, 2013 at 16:55


The water in the system is normally kept at a pressure of between 1 to 1.5 bar

as seen on the pressure gauge on the front of the boiler,due to very small leakages normally through the radiator on off valves the pressure will gradually

go down and stop the boiler working, when it gets to low,most combi boilers have a fault indicator that will tell you ,pressure to low ect,

now if your not to sure about how to repressurise the system ,don't do it,

leave it to somebody who knows what they are doing, or you can put to much pressure in the system/above 3 bar it will open the high pressure safety valve

and blow the excess pressure from the small pipe that goes from the boiler through the wall to the out side of the house,my experience i have found once these pressure safety valves open , they intend not to seal correctly when they close,causing water to constantly drip from the pipe outside ,

then you have to have the safety valve replaced,otherwise the system will never hold its pressure.

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Jan 21, 2013 at 17:32


Its not unusual for pilots to go out when it's very cold out side,the pilot light

heats up the tip of the thermacouple this generates a small electrical voltage

that holds open the first stage of the gas valve in the boiler.If the Thermacouple

gets a downdraft through the flue , it gets to cold to generate enough voltage

to hold open the gas valve ,and cuts out, as these thermacouples get older they loose there efficiency and do not generate as much voltage,hence they intend to shut off more, until they wan't hold the pilot on at all ,thats when they need replacing. If you suspect a faulty thermacouple ,ring up boiler repairer

for a quote ,stating how much will it cost to replace the thermacouple in a ........... boiler

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Jan 21, 2013 at 18:20

I have just had a new boiler and a new bluetooth room thermostat which you can either carry around the house with you or fix it on a suitable wall .,This is when my problems started ! This new installion has let me down eight times since December the third and the problem is the bluetooth thermostat ! do not consider having one if you have other bluetooth equipment. I had a perfectly good hard wired thermostat which was removed for new technology which has not worked and I have had to replace with a new hard wired thermostat.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 11:31

A big problem I have seen in continued cold weather is with the new Condensing Combi Boilers which vent the condensed waste water out of an external pipe which is oftern not insulated.

In very cold weather, this blocks and the boiler shuts down.

Thawing this out with hot water will solve this. Whether you can reach it or not is a different matter. Using a mop dipped in hot water works and I have heard of hairdryers on broom handles, but not together!

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Jan 23, 2013 at 19:39

EM i got a condensing boiler ,

The condense waste if plumbed in correctly , water from the normally flexible

drain pipe that comes out of the bottom of the boiler should drip into a funnel/ tun dish leaving a gap so the dish is not in contact with the f.drain pipe, there should also be a water trap under the dish to stop any smell coming up.

at the base of the funnel/tun dish is connected to a plastic drain pipe up to 40m that runs out side to a drain or into a drainage pipe or soak away.

this should all be explained in the manual left with you by the installer.

If you have not got one ,go to the manufactures web site ,normally you can down load a manual or installation sheet,covering condensing drain pipe.

good luck.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 20:35


Each radiator has a manual on off valve even if it's thermostat type you can turn off the radiator by turning it fully clockwise,plumbed into one side of the radiator.The valve the other side is a lockshield valve .this valve is manually set to a opening that balances the system,

water flows out of the boiler through the radiators or hot water cylinder and back to the boiler,water will always find it's easiest route back to the boiler,

so if your balancing is not set correctly you could have 50% of the water coming

from the boiler,going through two of your radiators in this case you would find the two rads. very hot .The idea is to get an even flow through each radiator.

by manually setting the lock shields to a opening that balances the system.

Each rad. turn the lockshield valve clockwise untill off, then turn back three turns for a start ,remember rads near the boiler only need to be cracked open, rads far away from the boiler may need to be fully open its a balancing act. adjust leave for 10 minutes recheck each rad.

note you got to have all the rads on and adjusted three turns open anticlockwise direction first. if a rad fills cooler than others ,open valve a extra one or two turns, anticlockwise,you should end up with all rads. at an even temperature , this balancing should only apply if you have certain rads in the house much colder than others,with the rad. turned on.good luck.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 21:13


In an emergency / burst pipe you should be able to go strate to the stop cock

and turn the mains water off ( clockwise ) direction.

RADIATOR LEAKING. Turn off the two valves each side of the radiator.the lockshield valve just pull off the plastic cap and turn adjuster clockwise with plyers/adj.spanner untill off.


GAS FIRES .Starting to smell ,flame looks a bit yellow/ black soot marks on radiants/tiles ,TURN IT OFF AT ONCE,and get it checked out by a registered


BACK BOILERS need servicing once a year, one problem with them is the air filters/grills intend to block with fluff,causing incorrect air gas mixture

carbon dioxide turns to carbon monoxide its a killer.

Well i hope this is some help to you,just passing on past experience.

keep warm/ keep safe/ good luck.

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