Keeping Warm At Christmas


As people prepare for Christmas they face difficult choices

How a cold home could impact health.

Cold homes are a bigger killer across the UK than road accidents, alcohol or drug use. High energy prices, dwindling household incomes and abysmally low standards of domestic energy efficiency are all contributing to a cold homes crisis.

As people prepare for Christmas they face difficult choices about whether to heat their homes and forgo another household necessity such as food, or spending what they need to keep warm and avoid falling into debt.

At the root of many winter deaths are cold, badly insulated homes. With rising fuel prices, more and more older people cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. Investment in home energy efficiency measures is vital.

What impact does a cold home have on a person's health?

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For those affected and their families, the personal cost is incalculable - the premature death of a loved one, or a hospital admission resulting from heart attack, stroke or breathing difficulties.

Every year excess winter death or serious illness is a potential personal tragedy for the people concerned, resulting in distress or even bereavement.
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There are also massive financial costs linked with additional winter deaths and illness. For each death, there are many more people who become seriously ill, needing hospitalisation in the short term and possibly social care in the longer term.

Older people who suffer from heart attacks or strokes as a result of winter cold can face permanent disability. They may find themselves needing care at home or even full-time residential care as a result, so there are likely to be substantially increased demands and costs on care services.

How the cold can affect people's health.

  • Exposure to cold through the hands, feet, face or head can rapidly lead to a drop in core body temperature.
  • Cold air can narrow airways, making it harder to breathe.
  • Cold air increases the risk of respiratory infection.
  • Cold lowers heart rate but raises blood pressure much more.
  • In older people raised blood pressure may last many hours.
  • Cold increases the risk of blood-clotting.
  • Blood-clotting and raised blood pressure both increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
  • The longer someone is exposed to cold, the more at risk they are of all these effects.

Steps people can take to protect their health.

Keep bedroom windows closed and draft free, especially overnight.

Wrap up well with thin layers rather than one thick layer.

Keep the living room and occupied rooms at 21°C (70°F).

Keep bedrooms at a consistent 18°C (65°F).

15 Tips to reduce fuel bills and stay healthy.

SHOWER NOT BATH

Having a warm shower instead of a hot bath could reduce your overall hot water consumption by up to 50%.

LOOK UP

Lofts with 25CM of insulation can save a quarter of heating costs. Switch off lights in any unoccupied rooms.

PUT A JACKET ON

Lag hot water tanks with jackets to keep water hot for longer. Check the thermostat – 60°C is usually ideal.

SEE THE LIGHT

Replace old light bulbs with new energy saving bulbs. They save money and can last up to 12 times longer.

GOODBYE OLD BOILER

Switch boilers over 15 years to energy efficient ones which can save a third annually - Sometimes there are grants available.

WASH WISELY

Most washing detergents will clean clothes effectively at 30°C, which saves money on water heating and energy.

DON'T GET INTO HOT WATER

Is the water too hot? The hot water cylinder thermostat shouldn't need to be set any higher than 60°C/140°F.

TURN IT OFF

Appliances shouldn't be left on standby or left on charge unnecessarily. It all adds up and wastes money.

GET ON DOWN

Turning the boiler thermostat down by just 1°C could cut energy heating bills by up to 10 per cent.

GET SET

Setting the room thermostat between 18-21°C, it will ensure the living space is kept at a healthy temperature.

GET YOUR TIMING RIGHT

The thermostat time should be set so that it comes on before people wake up and before they get in at night.

MEND THE DRIPS

A dripping hot water tap can waste half a bath in just one week. Leaking taps should be fixed and fully turned off.

CARE FOR KETTLES

Only boil as much water as needed at a time - ensure elements are covered by water if using an electric kettle.

SNUG AS A BUG

It's not cheaper to have heating on a low setting all day. Set timer to come on before you wake up and again before you get home.

KEEP THE HEAT IN

Exposure to cold through the hands, feet, face or head can rapidly lead to a drop in people's core body temperature.

Keeping warm at Christmas

What should people do if they're struggling to pay their energy bills?

They should contact their supplier as soon as possible to discuss ways to pay what they owe them. If they can't come to an agreement with their supplier about repaying the debt, or they're not happy with the option they've been given, they should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for advice by calling 03454 04 05 06 or visit their website for more information.

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