Winter is coming: how to survive cold snaps

Weather is getting increasingly unpredictable these days, and even during the warmer months, you never know when a cold snap might be coming. It’s important to be prepared and know what to do if you get caught out by an unexpected chill. This will reduce the risk of you getting ill, help to spare you from unexpectedly high fuel bills, and help to you keep warm with minimal damage to the environment. It will also keep your home in better condition so that it’s less likely to develop problems such as mold.

Fit a smart thermostat

One of the first things you can do to protect your home from cold weather is to fit a smart thermostat. This can be controlled through your phone from just about anywhere, so if you hear that a cold snap is coming when you’re away, you can turn up the heat at home to prevent damage and protect any pets who might still be there. It also means that you can arrange for your home to be warmest at key times, such as when you get up in the morning and when you come home from work, rather than running the heat on full all the time – and you can adjust those times with ease when your schedule changes. More sophisticated systems can monitor weather predictions and make changes for you.

Layer up

The best way to keep your body warm in winter is with layered clothing because layers of fabric trap layers of air that heat struggles to travel across – rather like the space inside a vacuum flask. You can take the same approach with materials in your home, from throws and blankets to snuggle under on the living room couch to extra blankets on your bed. This approach works best if you put the fluffiest blankets on the bottom, where they will trap warm air around your body, and thin, dense blankets on the top, where they will provide a secondary layer of insulation, trapping the heat. Finally, a bedspread with a shiny underside helps to prevent heat from radiating away.

Shield your windows

When it’s cold, you need more than thin, delicate drapes that barely even block out the light. Heavy velvet, fleece or woolen curtains provide much better insulation – or better still, you can use shutters, which make particularly attractive living room or bedroom decoration. You can also get sheets of plastic film to attach to your window panes, which have a similar effect to adding an extra layer of glazing. Open up your shutters or curtains as soon as the sun comes up so that it can pour in and heat up your home the way that greenhouses are heated, but close them again as soon as it goes dark to prevent heat from leaking out.

Turn on the fan

Most people think of fans as summer tools to be used for keeping the temperature down, but on cold days, your fan can have a different effect. Because hot air rises, it often gets trapped near the ceiling, making the upper part of the room much warmer than the part you’re actually moving around in. If it’s set to spin clockwise, then your fan will push some of that warm air back down to where it’s needed. A related trick involves putting shelves about three inches above your radiators and covering their undersides with cooking foil, which means that the heat from those radiators doesn’t go straight up but instead spreads out sideways into the room.

Check your insulation

You can make sure that you’re ready for cold snaps by checking on your insulation at intervals throughout the year. Insulation can get damaged easily by pests and by small, natural shifts in the fabric of your home that cause cracks to appear. Look out for such cracks and fill them up as soon as you spot them. Replace any damaged insulation and perform other routine tasks such as checking the lagging on your pipes, checking for leaks, and running your hot water system for an hour to make sure that your boiler is in good condition.

Once it gets cold, think about how to make best use of all the heat you generate. Cook whenever you have the time because it won’t just produce tasty food, but will also heat your kitchen. Consider eating your meals there or leave the door open afterwards so that heat circulates through the rest of your home. Small measures like this can have a big cumulative effect. They’ll help you get through unexpected chilly periods and they’ll help you cope with whatever winter eventually throws at you.

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