Six simple ways to winter-proof your home

The clocks have gone back and the winter nights will soon be drawing in. So it's a good time to prepare your home for the bleak months to come. By taking a few simple precautions now, you should be able to avoid the big bills later. Ruth Jackson explains how, with six inexpensive ways to weather-proof your house from top to bottom.

The clocks have gone back, the temperature has dropped, and it is very nearly winter. So it's the perfect time to get yourself ready for the bleak months. Get on with a few relatively inexpensive jobs now and you should be able to avoid big bills when the bad weather hits.Here are six ways to weather proof your house from top to toe.

Clean the house

Your house probably needs a good clean. Not inside, but outside. So get up a ladder or pay someone else to get up there and clean out your gutters and check your roof. Damage to your house thanks to a leaky roof or blocked gutters is considered general wear and tear by insurers, so it isn't usually covered by your buildings insurance policy. That means that if you want to avoid an expensive repair bill, you need to keep your gutters in good working order and check your roof is doing its job.

Also pay a professional to clean your chimney. Getting this done once a year not only helps your fire burn more efficiently, but also makesit safer. A chimney sweep will charge from £40 - that's a lot less than repairing the damagethat a chimney fire would cause.

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Check your insulation

Insulation is one of the cheapest ways to keep your house warm and reduce your energy bills. If you haven't got cavity wall insulation, look in to it. It costs around £250, but pays for itself in about two years via reduced heating costs. Loft insulation is also worth considering. It costs around £250 to install, depending on the size of your loft, and pays for itself within six years.

If your house is already insulated, pop into the loft and see how thick it is. The recommended thickness is 27cm, but more than six million homes have 7.5cm or less. Top it up, and not only will you feel warmer, you'll knock a further £30 or so off your annual heating bill.

Get your boiler serviced

A broken boiler in the depths of winter is not only a miserable experience, it can also be an expensive one repairs typically cost £600. Avoid the horror by getting a service. A full service costs between £50 - £80 for a standard boiler and £80 - £160 for a high-efficiency condensing boiler. You can find a registered engineer by checking the Gas Safe Register.

While you've got the engineer there, ask him to check your central heating too. They can make sure that your radiators are working at maximum efficiency and can install thermostatic radiator valves; these allow you to control the output of each radiator individually so that rooms that you barely use aren't being heated excessively, which will help reduce your bills.

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Draught-proof your home

Ok, so this one isn't going to save you a fortune, but it doesn't cost a lot either. Pop down to your local DIY store and spend under £100 on foam strips and draught excluders, and plug up all those windy bits around windows and doors. You will banish that horrible feeling of sitting in a draught, and you'll save about £25 a year.

Turn down the heating

Now your house is running at its most energy efficient, you might not need to heat it as much as you did. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree can save you around £55 a year. You can always turn it up again if ice starts to form.

Check your energy deal

Finally, check that you are getting the best possible deal on your heating bills. If you have never switched energy provider, you could be paying £400 more than you need to each year. If you take a recent bill and plug the details into a couple of comparison websites, you can check on cheaper options available.

And even if you did this last year, it is still worth checking again - cheaper deals constantly hit the market. Visit a few websites, such as Moneysupermarket, Uswitch and to make sure you have done a good, broad search, as not all the energy providers are listed on all the comparison websites.

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Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.