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Top tips for keeping warm and safe in the cold weather

Winter weather and snow predicted to last into the weekend

The Met Office has issued yellow and amber alert warnings across the UK, with widespread snow and sub-zero temperatures predicted for the rest of this week.

Even those in areas with blue skies overhead will be treated to bitterly cold winds and occasional flurries of snow, with the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap expected to last into March.

If you weren’t prepared for what could turn out to be the coldest spring in 27 years, Which? reviews and top tips should help you and your family stay toasty and safe.

How to keep warm and safe in this week’s cold weather

In the short term, there are several solutions to help you keep your home and family warm and safe without having to spend too much.

Get an electric heater

An electric heater can be more cost-effective than turning up your central heating, especially if you’re only trying to heat a single room that gets colder than the rest of your home.

The latest electric heaters have to conform to ‘LOT 20’ efficiency standards, so you can rest assured that if you’re buying a heater from a reputable retailer, you’ll be getting the latest in energy efficiency.

Which? tests dozens of electric heaters every year in some very challenging environments, including a refrigerated chamber to simulate the worst-insulated rooms. We’ve found you don’t need to break the bank to get a quality model. Indeed, our cheapest Best Buy electric heater costs around £30.

Adjust your central heating controls

This may seem obvious, but having a tinker with your thermostat, radiator valves and boiler can make a world of difference, especially if you haven’t touched them in ages. Having your heating come on earlier, or staying on for longer, could have a big effect on how warm your home feels.

If you have a room thermostat/s, make sure it has a free flow of air around it so that it can sense and adjust the temperature accurately. Nearby electric fires, televisions or lamps could also stop them from working properly.

Read our full guide to heating controls for our top five money-saving tips.

Fix common boiler faults

We’ve surveyed over 10,000 Which? members to find the most common boiler problems that’ll affect the performance of your central heating system. Up there at the very top is your boiler losing pressure, which you can fix yourself on many boilers.

If your boiler hasn’t had a check-up in a while, grant yourself some extra peace of mind with a boiler service so it’s ready to go again when the weather deteriorates.

If you’re having more serious problems, such as a leak or excessive noise, it could be time to replace your boiler altogether. Which? reviews include insight from heating engineers and boiler owners, allowing you to choose the best boiler for your budget.

Check in on elderly relatives

All of the above advice applies if you have elderly relatives, and it’s important that their home’s temperature doesn’t drop below 16°C. So make sure their home is set up for a sudden cold spell so they’re not left struggling in the cold. Check whether they have:

  • thick clothes – wool ones will maintain heat better than cotton;
  • slippers, particularly sheepskin ones;
  • electric blankets or heated chair pads;
  • a properly functioning heating system.

Visit our full guide to keeping elderly relatives warm in the cold weather for more details.

Ensure your baby is sleeping safely

Baby girl sleeping in crib

It’s important to keep your baby’s sleeping environment at a stable and comfortable temperature, between 16°C and 20°C. Make sure the sudden drop in temperature (and subsequent rise back to normal spring weather) doesn’t catch you out.

Our baby sleeping tips and bedding safety guide go into detail on how to keep your little one safe and sound.

Preparing for the next cold snap

Get underfloor heating

If you have one room that gets particularly cold, fitting underfloor heating could be a great option, especially if the room doesn’t already have a radiator or is poorly insulated with cold floor materials, such as stone or tiles. An off-the-shelf electric underfloor heating system will start at around £250, excluding installation.

Our guide to underfloor heating runs you through the pros and cons of buying a new system and includes insight from Which? members who have bought underfloor heating themselves.

Buy a wood-burning stove

A wood-burning stove not only looks great, but installing one could actually save you money in the long run. However, you’ll have to balance savings against the initial cost, which could be as much as £1,999, not including installation.

Our guide to wood-burning stoves takes you through the basics of fuel types, how to choose the right stove and wattage, and what’s involved in installation.

Take a look at smart thermostats

If you’ve ever wanted to adjust your heating from your bed or on the commute home, an app-controlled smart thermostat could be for you. They can be installed in place of your existing thermostat and claim to save you money from the get-go. Some even have the ability to track your location so they turn on automatically when you’re on your way home. Perfect for those with unpredictable schedules.

Visit our smart thermostat reviews and advice guides to help you decide whether getting one is right for you.

Consider winter tyres for your car

Winter tyres cost as little as £50 a corner and the extra tread and supple materials can significantly improve grip and stability in temperatures below 7°C.

Having a spare set in your garage in preparation for the winter months could be a worthwhile investment, especially as they’re not just useful in snow and ice – they can help if you live in a more remote area with poorly maintained roads.

Our in-depth advice on winter tyres and snow socks details the pros and cons of splashing out on extra kit for your car.

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