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How to prepare your apartment for cold weather

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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The temperature is dropping in London, so there are a few things to do now to pre-empt those wintery winds. First and foremost? It’s time to test your heating.

Turn up the heat – you’ll be glad you did.

Enginer with boilerThis is the time of year it all kicks off, everyone starts turning on the heat after many months off and discovering it’s not quite working the way it should. It’s best to discover this when the weather’s turning instead of when you’ve got your first full-on wintry gale – because by that time you’ll need it fixed fast and engineers’ schedules will be completely booked up.

What to do if your heating isn’t working

There are a few things you can do to troubleshoot your boiler. If your tenancy is with Foxtons, your My Foxtons account, look in your maintenance tab. We’ll direct you to the right information and how-to guides to help you troubleshoot for simple problems (sometimes it’s as easy as changing a battery).

  • If you’re feeling a little unsure – engineers have taken to YouTube to provide video troubleshooting guides to pretty much every boiler model. This can be very helpful to see your particular problem sorted on your particular boiler.
  • If you’re feeling very unsure – tenants can (rightfully) feel hesitant around gas appliances, so if you're uncomfortable, call in a professional. If your tenancy is with Foxtons, the best way to get it taken care of is by submitting a maintenance request on your My Foxtons account, which you can track on the account as we sort the issue for you.

Common problems – easy fixes

Check the pressure

If you switch your heating back on and it doesn’t come on, that is often because the boiler has lost pressure. Look on your boiler at the built-in pressure gauge. For most boilers, it should be around the 1.5 bar and will not function when it's below 1.

Some boilers are quite simple to re-pressurise, some require you to connect a filling loop and pull the key out and all the rest. Often, you can search YouTube for your boiler model and "how to re-pressurise my boiler," and some kindly engineer will have uploaded a video. We also have guides on your My Foxtons account.

Matthew Bennett, a Director for Foxtons Property Management, said "if you are confident, you've done it before or it's a straightforward process, by all means go ahead and re-pressurise. If you don't know what you're going to do, or you're nervous about working with a gas appliance, you'll want to phone your property manager."

Check the radiators

Another very common issue happens because your radiators have likely been cold for a long time, so when you turn them back on, air gets trapped inside. If you've got hot water but no heating, or if you feel cold spots on your radiator, you probably need to "bleed" your radiators.

You'll want to turn your thermostat on for at least half an hour and be sure the dials on the radiators are turned up if you've turned them low in early spring.

Once your radiators are warmed up, check that each radiator is warm all over - if any of them are only warm at the bottom, it means there's trapped air.

Bleeding a radiator:

1. Turn off the heat, and let the radiators cool down completely.

2. For most radiators, you'll need to buy a radiator key - which is about 50p at your local hardware store.

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3. Put a cloth and bucket below the valve (the smallest square nut at the top of the radiator, pictured).

4. Hold the key with a cloth, and slowly turn anti-clockwise to open the valve but do not unscrew the valve completely.

5. You should hear a hissing sound, wait until the sound stops - water may begin to leak out as well - then close the valve.

6. Check your boiler's pressure (see the previous slide on repressurising) as pressure can drop when you bleed radiators.

7. Switch your heating back on, and check that there are no cold spots again.

Set the temperature

Especially now, when conserving energy is on everyone's minds, we've noticed tenants asking about setting up their radiators to only come on at certain times of the day. Maybe right around your morning shower to keep the damp at bay, maybe in the evening for a few hours. Knowing how to set the thermostat is one of those skills that everyone seems to lose over the summer – YouTube videos will again be your friend here.

If you’re having trouble with the thermostat and it’s readings are incorrect or it’s not kicking in when it’s supposed to, there might be a very simple solution. Check if you can replace the battery. This is something our Property Management team get all the time, "loads of times, engineers are literally going out to a property and just putting a new battery in." It's a simple thing with a big effect on how your heating works.

Foxtons property managers have a collective knowledge of most all the popular boiler models, and how to solve a host of different issues. For Foxtons tenants, we also have a large network of trusted contractors across London that we work with if you need someone to come out and help.

Further reading: Another issue that crops up this time of year is mould. We have some great advice in our article, Spring Clean: tips for a tidy flat to protect your deposit.

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