Greenock & Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan urges households to ‘Be Smart This Winter’

With winter closing in, local MSP Stuart McMillan is urging residents to make sure their homes are ready for anything the weather might bring.

Last winter, more than 154,000 homes across Scotland experienced a boiler breakdown, leaving residents unable to heat their homes. During the Beast from the East, temperatures of below -10°C and wind speeds of over 60mph led to the busiest week on record for Scottish Gas, with 104 calls for assistance coming in every second – thirteen times usual call volumes. Engineers across Scotland cancelled their holidays and stayed at home so they could be there for their customers.

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Stuart McMillan MSP said:

“It’s really important to keep a step ahead of winter. I want everyone in Greenock & Inverclyde to understand what help is available to them, their family and friends. Being energy efficient and keeping bills under control is also really important, so I’d encourage people to seek advice from their energy supplier and take practical steps to stay smart with their energy use this winter.”

Scottish Gas Service and Repair Engineer, Julie Dickson, said:

“There are some really simple steps you can take to help prepare your house for winter and keep everything running like clockwork, 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 winter.”

1. Be energy smart: It’s inevitable that our energy use will increase when the heating’s on over winter, but there is 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: http://www.scottishgas.co.uk/smart.

2. 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.

  • If you notice cold spots at the top of your radiators, switch them off and when cool, turn 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.

3. 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, chimney balloons and even keyhole coverings can also make a real difference.
4. Maximise the heat: There’s nothing better than settling down in front of your favourite box set as a family, 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.

5. Look after your boiler: Stay ahead of the weather and make sure your boiler’s working properly by giving it a workout before the cold weather kicks in. You should also get a Gas Safe engineer to service your boiler annually.

6. 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.

7. Install a carbon monoxide detector: 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 Scottish 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.

8. Make the most of soft furnishings: Hanging curtains and placing rugs on hard floors are some of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your home warm this 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!

9. 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: http://www.scottishgas.co.uk/hive.

10. 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 Scottish 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.

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