Cost of living crisis - keeping warm
As our gas and electricity bills shoot up this year, we know that people might be looking for different ways to keep themselves, their homes, and their families warm.
We want to make sure that everyone is doing this as safely as possible.
Keeping warm and fire advice
Here is some advice on what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.
It is only safe to use an open fire to heat a room if there is a proper fireplace with a clean chimney that has good ventilation.
When a fire burns in a room, it uses up oxygen and produces carbon monoxide. This can be very dangerous and can be fatal if chimneys are not well maintained. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, and tasteless gas, which is why it is so dangerous.
If you are using a safe, controlled fire to heat your home, you should always:
- Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained – always have your chimney swept by a specialist, at least once a year for coal and twice if you are burning logs
- Have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in that room to let you know if there is a gas leak. It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and learn what to do if you suspect there might be a leak
- Always use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers
- Before going to bed, always make sure that fires and hot embers properly put out
- Keep clothing and fabric well away from open fires and log burners, as flying sparks can cause them to catch fire
- Never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin to light a fire
- Watch out for children and pets – they should never be left alone and should always be supervised carefully around open fires
It’s also important to note that open fires are not the most efficient way of heating your home, because most of the heat goes up the chimney.
Using your oven, stove, or any other appliance that is supposed to be used for cooking to heat a room is very dangerous. It is also a very inefficient way to heat a room. They use up a lot of energy, making it a very expensive way to do it.
If you use a gas oven to heat your home, you are putting yourself at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A gas oven does not have any safety features to stop it from producing too much carbon dioxide – if the oven door is left open, this can lead to dangerous levels of gas.
Although electric ovens do not produce carbon dioxide, they are not designed to be used for heating. If they are left on for long periods of time they can overheat, cause a malfunction, and result in a fire.
Leaving them on for long periods also reduces their lifespan, and you may have to pay to replace them.
- Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well ventilated rooms or areas, try to position them near a window
- Only change gas heater cylinders in the open air, if you have to change them indoors make sure all the rooms are ventilated
- Store spare cylinders upright and outside whenever you can, never keep them in basements, under stairs or in cupboards with electric meters or electric equipment Keep your gas heater well maintained; it’s recommended that you have them serviced every two years
- Do not leave a gas heater on overnight, and make sure you turn them off before going out
- Do not use flammable liquids or aerosols too close to the heater
- Make sure that the heater is far away from flammable materials and never use them to dry clothes
- You should fit a carbon monoxide alarm in a room that has a gas heater in it
- Place candles in secure, heat resistant holders
- Keep candles away from materials that might catch fire such as curtains, furniture, papers and clothes
- Make sure you have put them out before you go to bed and when you leave the room
- Never leave pets or children alone with candles
- Keep heaters away from clothes, curtains, and furniture and never use them to dry clothes
- Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order; never repair or service appliances yourself
- Do not take risks with old heaters and avoid buying them second hand
- Where you can, secure heaters against a wall to stop them from falling or becoming a trip hazard
- Always unplug electric heaters when you go out or go to bed
- Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off
- Store electric blankets flat, rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring which can make them less efficient
- Try not to buy second-hand blankets and check regularly for wear and tear
- Replace your blanket when it is more than 10 years old
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, older blankets that are not controlled by a thermostat might not be safe to use at night
- Make an escape plan and practice it; make sure everyone knows how to get out safely
- Plan a second route in case the first one is blocked
- Do not store items in areas that can block your escape route or be a fire risk
- Keep door and window keys where everyone you live with can find them
- For more information you can visit: https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/safety/the-home/escape-plan/
If you’re having issues with your energy bills or supplier, you can get more advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.
You can contact our local freephone adviceline on 08082 78 78 15 or send your enquiry to us online here.