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Most people want a White Christmas, but homes aren't ready for a cold snap

  • A third of people don’t  check that their central heating is working ahead of winter
  • More than three-quarters don’t insulate their pipes ahead of cold season
  • One in five don’t know how to bleed a radiator 
As darker nights draw in, new research from British Gas reveals that most people (59%) want a white Christmas, but while they may be ready to embrace the full winter experience outdoors, many households have not taken precautions to prepare for a cold snap.

Nearly 40% of people in the UK (23 million) have endured cold showers over the past five years and more than half have gone without heating for more than a day*.  

Despite the cold reality for homes with boiler issues, and temperatures already dipping to -3 degrees in parts of rural Scotland and one degree in urban areas, a third (33%) of people do not check that their central heating is working before it is time to turn it on, and almost half (47%) do not get their boiler serviced in advance of winter.  

An annual boiler service detects issues with the boiler and controls, including whether it is leaking poisonous carbon monoxide. 

Frozen pipes can result in damage to a boiler and even flooding.  However, three-quarters of people do not insulate their pipes ahead of the cold season, and just under a third do not know how to prevent their pipes from freezing.

Last winter, British Gas completed nearly 200,000 plumbing jobs.

With meteorologists predicting a cold snap, blocking draughts is a simple way to stop heat escaping, yet less than four in ten people take this simple step to prepare their homes for winter and keep warm.

When it comes to making sure that radiators are working efficiently, overall people surveyed think bleeding a radiator is easier than other everyday tasks such downloading an app on their smart phone. However, one in five admit they do not know how to bleed a radiator.

Matthew Bateman, Managing Director of Field Operations at British Gas, said: “Our top priority is to keep our customers’ homes and business premises warm, safe and working during the winter months. As the UK prepares for a cold snap, our engineers are on standby to help if anything goes wrong.”  

Next week, British Gas predicts its engineers will visit more than 70,000 homes to help customers experiencing a problem with boiler breakdowns or home appliances. 

Practical advice

British Gas engineers have some smart, simple advice on how to prepare homes and businesses for the colder weather and help protect against potential costly damage incurred as a result of burst pipes, damaged water tanks or overflowing gutters. 

1. Bleed your radiators: to make sure they are working properly. If your radiators have cold spots at the top, this means you have air in the system, so you will need to bleed them to get them working efficiently. 
a. To do this, turn the system off and when cool turn the radiator key until the air stops and water runs consistently. Once you have turned the system back on, the problem should be solved.
b. Cold spots in the bottom or centre of the radiator may be an indication of sludge build up and the need for system flushing
c. Bleeding your radiator may result in pressure dropping. If you have a pressure gauge make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary.

2. Block the breeze: Make sure all of your windows and doors seal properly to stop warm air escaping. For those that don’t, fitting draught excluders, which you can buy from most DIY stores, is a quick and cheap way to cut down on your energy bills. 

3. Stay safe: It’s vital to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted and that you test it regularly. From the 1st October 2015, it became a legal requirement for private landlords in England to install working carbon monoxide alarms in any room with a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. 

4. Love your boiler: Check to make sure that your boiler is working properly before winter sets in. The older your boiler, the more inefficient it will be. If you have a pressure gauge make sure the boiler is at the right pressure and top up as necessary. 

5. Wrap up your water tank and insulate hot water: The materials can be purchased from most DIY stores and help to conserve heat and save you money. 

6. Insulate your pipes: Burst pipes are a huge issue during winter months. To help prevent burst pipes, ensure all pipes are properly insulated by using lagging, which can be bought cheaply from most DIY shops.
7. Be energy smart: Why not speak to your energy supplier about a smart meter, which enables you to see how much energy you are using, in pounds and pence? In turn this helps you to better understand your energy consumption and identify where you can make savings. For businesses, you can access an online tool, Business Energy Insight, which provides personalised information, alerts and energy efficiency tips.

8. Maintain your drains: If you're trying to keep your drains outside well maintained, it's a good idea to make sure they are clear of debris at the point at which they enter the ground. This involves checking your gullies for autumnal leaves and twigs in order to ensure that they don't restrict water flow at any point.

9. Control your heating remotely with Hive Active Heating™:  Using the Hive Active Heating™ app means you can control your heating and hot water remotely from your mobile, tablet or laptop - so you can ensure your home or business premise is warm when you need it to be.

Notes to editors

About British Gas 
  • British Gas’ 8,000 engineers serve more than four million homes and businesses across the country, helping to provide support when things go wrong such as broken boilers, faulty electrics or leaking pipes. 
  • British Gas’ HomeCare products offer residential customers different types of protection for boilers, heating, electrics and plumbing.
  • British Gas Careplan offers business customers a range of options to keep gas equipment and appliances safe, working and efficient.
The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 4,277 respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 12.10.16 – 14.10.16.  Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

* Research conducted by Atomik Research with 4001 respondents across the UK between 16th-18thFebruary 2016.

For more information contact:

Bieneosa Ebite
Senior PR Manager
British Gas
01784 84 3000

British Gas is Britain’s leading energy supplier, and serves around 11 million homes in Britain – nearly half the country’s homes – as well as providing energy to around half a million British businesses. British Gas provides value for money, dedicated customer service, innovative energy solutions and the highest quality Homes Services expertise in the country. Find out more at

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