Heat your living room and bedroom to 18C, Brits say as cold spell hits

A cold morning in Rufford, Lancashire, on Wednesday – ZarkePix/Alamy Live News

People concerned about rising energy costs should heat up their living rooms, the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) has said, with temperatures expected to drop to -10C.

The UKHSA said the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions were “particularly at risk” and should keep the heat at 18C in the rooms they use most often.

The recommendation comes amid fears that the rising cost of energy could mean some people are resistant to turning on their heating at home despite the dangerously cold temperatures.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, consultant in public health medicine at UKHSA, said: ‘In rooms you mainly use, like the living room or bedroom, try to heat them to at least 18C if you can. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night.

Age UK said it was “understandable” that older people would want to turn off the heating, but warned they could put themselves at serious risk of harm.

Health officials issued a level three cold weather alert on Wednesday evening, which is expected to last until 9 a.m. on December 12, but could be extended if forecasts call for colder temperatures. The alert is triggered when extreme cold is likely to significantly affect people’s health.

Temperatures of -10C are forecast for parts of northern Scotland, with readings of -6C also expected in rural areas of England from Thursday.

Large parts of Scotland are set to experience a prolonged “Arctic Blast”, with freezing temperatures, snow and ice expected on Thursday. The Met Office said Thursday is likely to be the coldest day of the year and parts of northeast England could also see snowfall.

Corgarff Castle in Aberdeenshire was dusted with snow on Wednesday - Iain Masterton/Alamy Live News

Corgarff Castle in Aberdeenshire was dusted with snow on Wednesday – Iain Masterton/Alamy Live News

Mike and Amy Woolven with their son, Josh, in the snow in Tomintoul, Scotland - Peter Jolly/Northpix

Mike and Amy Woolven with their son, Josh, in the snow in Tomintoul, Scotland – Peter Jolly/Northpix

Living in very low temperatures for an extended period of time puts considerable strain on the body, which has to work harder to warm up faster. This can lead to increased blood pressure and rapid heartbeat, which in turn can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Dr Sousa added: “Cold weather can have serious health consequences, and the elderly and those with heart or lung conditions may be particularly at risk.

“If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a comfortable temperature for you.”

Under the current energy price guarantee, a household using a typical amount of gas and electricity can expect to pay £2,500 a year. However, this increases to £500 to £3,000 per year for typical energy consumption from April.

As well as recommending heating most used rooms to 18C, the UKHSA also advised that “several layers of thinner clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer”. He added that “having plenty of hot food and drink is also effective in keeping warm.”

When it comes to whether it’s more cost-effective to heat a room or an entire house, a “variety of factors that need to be considered,” said Ben Price, co-founder of Heatable, an installation company online boilers.

He added: “It is difficult to provide a standard answer. Factors considered include the type of heating system used, the layout and age of the property, and how the property is used on a day-to-day basis.

For larger homes or those with older boilers, it may be more cost effective to heat only one or two of the most commonly used rooms.

However, Mr Price added: ‘For most households using modern gas central heating and a modern boiler, it is generally advisable to heat the whole house. He advised installing thermostatic radiator valves in each room so that the temperature in different rooms could be adjusted.

A frosty morning in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire on the first day of a cold spell - Paul Marriott Photography

A frosty morning in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire on the first day of a cold spell – Paul Marriott Photography

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, said it was ‘essential’ that older people try to stay ‘as warm as possible’.

She added: “With such high energy prices, it is understandable that many people are reluctant to turn up the heating. But prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be very harmful to older adults, especially those with health or mobility issues.

“We also advise people to keep their living room, or the room they use the most, warm when they are at home during the day and to heat their bedroom to 18°C ​​before going to bed. Rooms that are not in use, for example a guest bedroom, can have the radiators turned off and the doors closed so that energy is not wasted.

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