With Newcastle set to feel the chill this Christmas, Stephanie Walker, a local British Gas engineer is urging residents to follow some simple tips and make sure their homes are ready for anything the weather might bring.  

Last winter, more than 2,500 homes in the UK experienced a boiler breakdown on Christmas Day, leaving residents unable to heat their homes – and in some cases, unable to cook their turkey!  

Recent research from British Gas suggests that a lack of knowledge could leave residents vulnerable to boiler or heating breakdowns. Although 91% of people in Newcastle are comfortable sorting out a blocked Netflix or email account, setting up a new phone or re-setting the WiFi, just 19% would know what to do in the event of a frozen pipe. 

And as Christmas draws closer, British Gas is predicting more than 2,000 engineer call outs across Tyneside and Northumberland over the next two weeks to support with problems in the home.  

Stephanie Walker, a Newcastle British Gas service and repair engineer, said: “Our research shows that having no heating or hot water during the colder months is people’s worst winter disaster in the home. There are some really simple steps you can take to help prepare your house for winter and help prevent a nightmare before Christmas, but if something does go wrong, we’re always on standby to come to the rescue. 

“Here are some tips I’ve been sharing with my customers to help them keep a step ahead this Christmas.”  

  1. Deck the halls, trim the tree, bleed your radiators: This may seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people forget. 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.
  • 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.
  1. 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! 
  1. Maximise the heat: There’s nothing better than settling down with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in front of your favourite Christmas film, but before you get too comfortable, 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. 
  1. Look after your boiler: A broken boiler isn’t on anyone’s list this Christmas. Stay ahead of the weather and make sure your boiler’s working properly before your guests arrive. For peace of mind, why not protect your boiler, heating, electrics and plumbing with one of British Gas’s Homecare products? You can have your boiler serviced every year from 40p per day. To find out more, visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/homecare.
  1. Insulate your hot water system: Stopping heat from escaping doesn’t just save you money. When temperatures drop below zero, it’s important to make sure that the water inside your pipes doesn’t freeze and cause them to burst. Lagging materials are available from most DIY stores – an easy, cost-effective solution for protecting your water tank and pipes.
  1. 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 smart meters, 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: www.britishgas.co.uk/smartmeters.
  1. Install a carbon monoxide alarm: You can’t hear it, see it, taste it or smell it, and it kills around 30 people a year. Fortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. Faulty central heating systems are one of the most common sources of carbon monoxide in the home – as well getting your boiler checked once a year, it’s essential to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.  Available through British Gas or from your local DIY store, the detectors last between five and seven years, so check yours is in date and test it to be certain it’s working.
  1. 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!
  1. Use tech to control your heating remotely:  Ever thought about controlling your heating and hot water remotely from your smartphone? With Hive Active Heating, you can turn the heating on when you’re coming home from work, so the house warms up in time for your arrival – equally, if you’re running late for any reason, having the flexibility to control your heating on the go means you’ll never waste money on energy you’re not using. To find out more, visit: www.britishgas.co.uk/hive.
  1. 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.  £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.