Experts warn that the nation is in for a big freeze – as gas engineers expect to visit more than 200,000 homes with broken down heating

That number includes more than 44,500 visits anticipated in Christmas week alone.

Each year, British Gas fixes around 1.2 million boilers, with December traditionally associated with a spike in demand.

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People are being advised to prepare their homes now to avoid being caught out – and to make sure their heating and hot water systems can see them through into the new year and beyond.

What you can do

Bleeding radiators, wrapping pipes in insulation and installing carbon monoxide detectors are all important ways to ensure the home stays warm and safe over winter, and to reduce the risk of a system breakdown.

Sunny Solanki, a British Gas service and repair engineer, said: “This year more than ever, being stuck without heating or hot water is the last thing anyone wants – especially as we’re all spending more time at home.

“I always tell my customers that preparation is key – you don’t need to be a qualified engineer to do a few small things around the house that’ll keep your heating and hot water system working as effectively as possible.”

Other top tips from British Gas to keep the nation’s homes warm and working include leaving the central heating running for an hour a day – even if you won’t be in – and making sure no heat is lost through loose-fitting letterboxes, window frames or even draughty chimneys and keyholes.

Sunny Solanki added: “Remember, a system that’s in good shape will also keep you warm and safe for longer without using more energy than it needs – helping to keep your bills under control.

“And while it can be rewarding to resolve minor issues on your own, we’re on hand if you’re ever uncertain – and we’re all taking the necessary safety precautions on home visits, including wearing full PPE.”

Contact your supplier

Anyone who’s struggling with their energy bills is being advised to contact their supplier for help.

British Gas has supported more than 90,000 of its most vulnerable customers since the start of lockdown, including by deferring payments, providing more than £6.9m worth of pre-loaded prepayment meter cards, and donating £750,000 to the British Gas Energy Trust.

For more advice on energy saving and winter-proofing your home, go to https://www.britishgas.co.uk/energy/energy-saving/energy-saving-tips.html