There may currently be no forecast for a Beast from the East-style cold snap, but there are likely to be some cold spells before the respite of spring in a few months. With this in mind, you'll be wanting to do everything you can to keep your property warm over the coming weeks.
For tenants, as you don’t own the property, you’re more limited as to what you can do. It also means that you need to take steps to avoid issues such as mould and damp affecting the property throughout the season. However, at the same time you'll also want to prioritise keeping your bills low, being as environmentally-friendly as possible and maintaining your rental property effectively. In order to reach the best possible outcome, it's important to work with your landlord and fulfil your responsibilities as a tenant. To help you, here are some tips to stay warm, when it’s cold outside.
Top tips for keeping warm
There are certain things you can do and others that your landlord will need to take care of, but don't be afraid to ask them to carry them out if it means your home will be warmer during the cold winter months. As well as keeping you comfortable and protected from freezing winter temperatures and damp, taking preventative measures now can ensure there are no larger problems later on, such as cracked pipes, leaks, or even floods. You might hear from your landlord around this time of year with a reminder about the potential damage that can be caused by burst pipes, likely caused by the freezing temperatures. As well as ensuring the pipes are adequately insulated (which is your landlord’s issue) One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk is to keep the thermostat set to a temperature that it doesn’t drop below, ideally 10 degrees C.
This may also be a condition of your tenancy agreement, and additionally you could have a clause to let your landlord know you won’t be in the property for a period of time. This is because an empty property could render their landlord insurance void, and also they might want to keep an eye on it to make sure everything’s OK if you’re going to be away.
The most effective way of keeping your home warm is through improving insulation (which would need to be organised by your landlord). Whilst Landlords have a requirement to obtain a minimum energy efficiency rating of E, it’s possible the levels of insulation in the property could still be improved. For example, a property with low levels of roof insulation i.e 150mm – 200mm, may still pass the minimum requirements but if these were improved to more energy efficient levels, it could improve your bills and your home’s warmth, as a badly insulated loft can lose up to 33% of the property’s heat through the roof.
Installing chimney balloons and draught excluders can also be beneficial. You should be careful to look out for mini draughts that come through things like cat flaps and letterboxes. With your landlord's permission, you could organise for an online temperature control system like Hive to be installed. This means you can control the heat of your property more efficiently when you're not there, keeping the temperature warm and steady. Meanwhile, on a very basic level, closing all doors and wearing more layers can help to make your home instantly feel warmer.
Fortunately, help is available under the Affordable Warmth Obligation scheme. If you claim certain benefits, and live in a privately owned or rented property, or a social housing rented home, you may well be eligible to claim help towards the cost of;
- insulation work - for example to your loft or cavity walls
- replacing or repairing your boiler, or other upgrades to your heating
You should speak to your landlord or managing agent if you're considering applying for energy upgrades to your home, but it's likely they will be in support of improvements that will benefit both you and the property. Find out more about the scheme from the Government's Affordable Warmth Obligation webpage
How to keep costs down
Some of the above tips could be costly for you or your landlord, but there are also some more cost effective ways of keeping warm. As previously mentioned, closing doors and wrapping up with more layers are two of the easiest free ways of avoiding the cold.
Choose curtains & blinds that keep the warmth in
When it comes to the window dressings, blinds and curtains make a brilliant addition that can keep the heat in when they’re closed – especially if they are made from a thick, insulating material. If it’s possible to double up with blinds and curtains on each window, then this is an additional layer that can help to retain the heat.
You might need to check with your landlord first if they have provided you with window fittings, and you’d like to swap out existing curtains with your own, especially if you need to drill holes to fit a new pole, but if it’s possible to add your new curtains to the existing fittings, then this should be a straightforward switch. Just remember to take them down when you move out.
Think of the floor
Your rental might have wooden flooring or perhaps it has thin carpets. Rental homes tend to have hard wearing rather than luxurious finishes. Uninsulated floors can be a key reason why rooms don’t warm up in your home. Investing in a rug could be a very easy way to both inject a bit of personality and make a considerable difference to your warmth levels. Shop around for some thick rugs to find one that suits your budget and you’ll soon see a difference.
What's more, if you have bare floors, putting down rugs and mats can help to make the home feel warmer for a relatively low cost. Is there a draught coming through the gaps? Whether you’re happy to roll up some blankets or you’d like to invest in some purpose-made options, draught excluders placed under doors and on window ledges can make a real difference to the temperature in yourhome.
Do you have the energy?
Windows are where a lot of heat can escape, but thanks to the new energy regulations on rental properties, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be less than double glazed. Rental properties now all must meet strict regulations and a minimum of EPC rating E (except in a few exceptions). If you suspect your property does not meet this, ask your landlord to see the EPC (you should have already been given a copy of this when you moved in). If it doesn’t meet this standard then you can ask your landlord to make improvements to the property to ensure it does comply.
Make the most of the property’s aspects
Making the most of the property’s aspect is something often overlooked. During the day, it’s tempting to leave curtains closed to keep in heat but the sun is a very effective heater. Try to leave window dressings open to allow as much winter sun in as possible. An Easterly facing aspect will have sun all morning, and a Westerly, all afternoon. If you’re lucky enough to have a Southerly facing window, this should be warm all day. Often tenancy agreements may have a clause to ensure you are heating and ventilating the property sufficiently to prevent damp and so you may want to time opening the window (on a night lock) when it’s making the most of the sun’s exposure.
When it comes to reducing energy bills, it's often advised to keep your central heating at a constant low level instead of blasting at a high heat in infrequent bursts. As well as reducing the cost, this approach also reduces the chances of pipes bursting which could save money and stress in the long-term. It can also pay to think of practical ways you can avoid overusing the heating system, including drying your clothes on a clothes horse instead of on radiators (just be mindful to ventilate if you do this, to avoid causing damp).
Make the most of the radiators
Now you have the heating settings worked out, you’ll need to make sure the radiators are working effectively. If they’re cold at the top and warming up slightly at the bottom, this could indicate they’ve a build up of air inside and this will stop them being as hot as they could be. This is usually very easy to resolve - they’ll probably need bleeding. Before you do this, you’ll need to know whether you have a combi boiler or not. If you do, bleeding a radiator can reduce the overall pressure in your heating system meaning the boiler will need topping up. it’s always a good idea to check with your landlord or agent first.
If you’ve got the all clear, to do this, you’ll need a radiator key and a towel to protect the flooring. Firstly turn the boiler off. Place a towel below the radiator, pop the radiator key into the slot at the bottom of the radiator then turn the key slowly. Wait to hear the hiss and once you see a drop of water, quickly turn the key back.
Make the most of your radiators. You can use tin foil to divert the heat from radiators away from the wall and into the room. You can buy specially designed heat reflective foil or attach some standard foil to a piece of card and place it behind the radiator to reflect the heat into the space.
Being mindful of the environment
These days, we're all more conscious of our carbon footprint and while keeping your rental property warm is likely to be a high priority, many tenants will be eager to make sure that it is not to the detriment of the environment. Between you and your landlord there are a range of steps you can take. These include using energy efficient lightbulbs or LED lighting, installing good quality insulation, using smart meters for more accurate energy readings and using central heating efficiently and sparingly. When choosing which energy supplier is right for you, many energy comparison sites will let you select 'green tariffs' so you can consciously choose an energy supplier who only uses environmentally sound energy.
Under the legislation known as MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards), landlords are now legally required to ensure your property has a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating of E-, with the legislation being extended to cover existing tenancies in 2020.
Why maintenance remains important
As well as the measures outlined above you and your landlord can take to keep your property warm, it can also be beneficial to focus on maintaining the property. This means checking guttering is clear, ventilating to avoid condensation turning into mould and looking after the boiler and outside taps. Meanwhile, it’s also important to check your fireplace as closing the flue can stop draughts coming through. Another thing to look out for is ice and icicles on the roof, which could be dangerous if they fall on you.
When maintaining your property, make sure you are clear on what is yours and what is your landlord’s responsibility (this should be set out clearly in your tenancy agreement). Looking after these aspects of the property can contribute towards keeping it warm and reduce the chances of significant problems escalating, which could in turn be stressful and cost more at a time when you want everything to be working properly.
Based on the extreme weather we’ve seen in recent years we can begin to plan for freezing temperatures. Taking the time now to decide how you’ll keep your home warm will help you get through some of the colder temperatures in the coming months. Taking the decision to make the same monthly payment for your energy bills in the summer when your usage is low, may help you to budget in the winter by building up a ‘surplus’ to be used in the winter.
If there’s anything you’re unsure of or you’re planning any additions that are likely to affect the property itself, speak to your landlord or letting agent and check your tenancy agreement carefully.
If there is a bigger problem relating to heating the home, such as a broken boiler or missing insulation, get in touch with your landlord or agent as soon as you can as they will want to take responsibility for resolving this as quickly as possible.