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Author: Age NI
Published on 29 November 2010 12:00 AM

Most of us spend a lot of time indoors in winter, so it’s important that you are comfortable and safe.

Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, as the layers trap warm air. If you are sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide a lot of warmth. Use a hot-water bottle or an electric blanket to warm the bed, but never use the two together. Check whether your electric blanket can be kept on all night or whether it is only designed to warm the bed before you get in and make sure you get it checked every three years.    

Get to know how the timer and thermostat on your heating system work. If it’s very cold, set the timer to switch the heating on earlier rather than turning the thermostat up to warm your house quickly. Close the curtains and fit thermal linings if you can.   

Heating your home is easier and cheaper if it is well insulated and your central heating works properly. Have your heating system serviced each year and check that it’s working before the cold weather starts. Gas heating must be serviced by a Gas Safety Registered engineer. Draught-proof doors and windows, insulate the loft and lag the hot-water tank and pipes. The Energy Saving Trust can advise you whether or not you may be able to get financial help to do this – call 0800 512 012. Grants from the government and energy suppliers to help heat and insulate your home may be available if you are over 60.

Contact your energy supplier if you are having trouble paying your bills. Companies should not disconnect all-pensioner households during winter months. Also ask about their Priority Service Register for older and disabled people, and if you are eligible for free energy efficiency and insulation. People over Pension Credit age are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment to help with heating costs. If you have not been eligible before, contact the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline 0845 9 15 15 15 for more information.

If you receive Pension Credit or certain other benefits, you are automatically paid an extra cold weather payment when the temperature is at freezing or below for seven days in a row. To find out if you are receiving the benefits you are entitled to, call Age NI on freephone 0808 808 7575 from 8.00am to 7.00pm. 

Our Advice and Advocacy service offers free, confidential and impartial advice from trained advisors to older people, their relatives, friends and carers.

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575