Cold homes can damage your health

With the current ongoing cost-of-living crisis, it’s not surprising that many UK households are delaying switching on their central heating. However, your health and safety might be at risk in a cold house – especially when it comes to older houses with poorer insulation. In the following guide, we’ve discussed some of the most important things you should keep in mind about heating your home this winter. Many people are faced with very difficult decisions, but do remember that cold homes can damage your health.

Why is it so expensive to heat a house in the UK?

Unfortunately, the majority of British houses are badly insulated. This contributes to warm air escaping quickly, wasting the energy used to heat the house. With Brits facing exponential and continued rising gas prices, the issue of insulation is more urgent than ever before.

Almost every built, sold, or rented residential property in the UK legally requires an Energy Performance Certificate rating. And out of 28.5 million homes in England, six out of ten fall into D-G categories, meaning that they fail to meet minimum energy efficiency requirements.

In terms of ROI (return on investment,) insulation options are often an excellent starting point to for a cost-effective way to reduce your heating bills.

 When is the best time to turn on the heating?

Despite the latest innovations in energy efficiency for homeowners, the question of how to heat efficiently still remains. But when it’s cold outside, it’s important to keep your home warm and dry.

With the summer months long behind us, many UK households might be feeling tempted to reach for the thermostat. Whether you’ve started layering up to hold out until it gets that bit colder – or you’ve already decided to make the most of the warmth from your radiator – deciding when to put the heating on can divide households. Still, there’s no hard and fast rule.

One thing that many households can do to reduce costs is to be more specific when the heating goes on and is turned off, and reduce the temperature of that thermostat. The recommended daytime temperature for occupied rooms is 19-21.°

Is a cold house bad for your health?

With the sky-high cost of energy bills, you might be feeling reluctant to turn on the heating for the first time over winter. Indeed, many people struggling with the high cost of energy are saying they will not turn their central heating on this winter. But as tempting as it might be to save money, the evidence is very clear that cold homes can damage your health.

Common problems linked to the cold include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Higher risk of infections, like common colds
  • Impaired lung function, leading to respiratory problems

Besides poor physical health, coping with a cold home can also cause mental or stress-related illness.

Anyone with existing conditions such as circulatory problems, diabetes and arthritis; and mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are particularly vulnerable. Similarly, many children and the elderly are at a high risk of cold homes causing health issues. If you have retired, you are likely to be spending more time at home, but clearly, it’s important to stay healthy in your retirement.

Condensation, damp and mould

If the heating is left off, homes are more likely to become cold and damp and other problems such as condensation and mould are likely to occur.

Mould can be extremely damaging to our health. You may have heard that very recently, a coroner concluded that a two-year-old boy’s death was caused by ‘extensive’ mould in his family’s flat which had caused a severe respiratory condition.

How do you prevent mould?

Keeping your home free from mould first involves keeping moisture and damp to a minimum and avoiding letting rooms get too cold.

In order to do this effectively, we’d recommend:

  • Ventilating your home by opening windows daily
  • Adding more insulation
  • Allowing light into your home
  • Drying any moisture gathering on walls, ceilings, or windowsills

Very cold rooms are more likely to get damp and mouldy, so even if they are not in use, put your radiator on a very low setting.

You might also choose to buy a dehumidifier since these can automatically regulate the moisture levels within your home, although obviously, this will add to electricity costs.

Regardless of how you choose to heat your home this winter, try to prioritise your own health and wellbeing. Don’t allow a cold home to damage your health.

If you are struggling financially, you should be able to get help. If you are not sure what support you should get or are struggling to pay bills, don’t just ignore the problem. Speak to your energy company: they have a legal liability to help you. It may also be worth contacting your local Citizen’s Advice Centre



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