Why can cold weather be bad for your health?

The cold thickens blood and increases blood pressure, and breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections. So it’s all the more important to ensure your home and the homes of people you look out for are the right temperature.

What temperature should rooms be in winter?  

Ideally you should heat your home to a temperature of at least 18 °C. This is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease. Having room temperatures slightly over 18 °C could be good for your health.

If you are under the age of 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may wish to keep your home at a comfortable temperature even if it is slightly lower than 18°C.

Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18 °C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.  

It is important to keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold.

Heating and insulating your home

Keeping the heat in

  • Insulating your home not only keeps you warm but will also help to keep your energy costs down.
  • Fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.
  • If you have wall cavities, make sure that they are insulated too.
  • Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes.
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated inside your rooms.
  • Make sure that your radiators are not obstructed by curtains or furniture.

To find out more about energy efficiency visit www.gov.uk/energy-grants-calculator or phone the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 / Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.

You can also find out more about support from Government, including support with energy bills and household costs this winter, on the Help for Households webpage.

Saving money on your energy bills

Understanding your energy usage and charges is a good starting point for reducing your energy costs, if you pay for your energy via credit this information can be found in your energy bill.

Your energy bill will include; a breakdown of costs, such as daily standing charges and the cost of energy used in the period covered by the bill, tariff information and a record of your past energy usage. 

Energy Saving Trust has a useful guide on understanding your energy bill.

You may also be able to get additional help with your bills:

Citizens Advice - provide free energy advice and support via email, phone, or online. Their advisors can help with what grants and benifits are available to you, as well as providing support if you have any issues with your energy supply. 

You can contact their helpline on 0808 223 1133

Winter Fuel Payment - if you receive a state pension and If you were born on or before 25 September 1956, you will receive the Winter Fuel Payment which is worth between £250 and £600.

Cold Weather Payment - between the 1 November and 31 March people claiming certain benefits will receive a payment of £25 if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be,  zero degrees celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. Check if you can get a payment in your area.

Warm Home Discount - this one-off payment gives eligible older and low-income consumers £140 off their energy bill.

For full details and eligibility, visit www.gov.uk/energy-grants-calculator

Help for Households: help with your energy bills - find out more about the Government's energy bill discount payment for UK households as well as cost of living payments

There are also lots of free or low-cost ways to save money on your energy bills. Phone the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 / Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.

Energy saving tips for your home

Some of these energy-saving tips may seem obvious but they can make a big difference when it comes to reducing your fuel bill.  

  • Set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off after you've gone to bed. If it's very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up.
  • If you can't heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room throughout the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed. Remember to close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms you use most.
  • Consider adding draft excluders to maximise the heat in the house and minimise drafts and cold getting in.
  • If your heating system uses storage heaters, make sure that are set up in the most efficient way possible. You can use this guide to do so. 

There's really useful advice in the Keep Warm Keep Well booklet produced by the Government. This booklet aims to help you maintain good health during winter and take advantage of the financial help and benefits available. It is aimed at over 60s, low-income families, and people living with a disability.

Stay safe with fires, heaters and electric blankets

In severe weather, you may be making use of fires and candles for warmth, ambience, or in the event of power cuts, for light.

To stay safe using fire, you are advised to ensure that you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home and that you test it regularly    

You should also do the following:
Open fires: sweep your chimney, use a fireguard, make sure the fire is put out properly before you leave the room. 
Electric heaters: keep away from curtains and furniture, and do not use for drying clothes. Always unplug when you go out or go to bed.
Electric blankets: do not use a hot water bottle, even if the blanket's switched off. Unplug blankets before you go to bed, unless they have thermostat control for safe all-night use.

Carbon monoxide poisoning risk

When burning fuel, carbon monoxide poisoning can be a health risk. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel does not burn properly, and every year around 30 people die following accidental exposure to high levels of the gas, which is difficult to detect because you can’t see, smell or taste it.

To minimise risks, a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, which meets European Standards EN 5029, should be fitted in any room that contains a gas fuel burning appliance, like a boiler and gas fire, and a solid fuel burning appliance, and tested regularly to ensure that it is working, as effectively as possible. The rooms should be adequately ventilated.