The winter is a tough time for anybody who has difficulty heating their home, but there are practical steps that can be taken aside from a complete overhaul of the heating system which can minimise cold and maximise savings for tenants and landlords alike. Joe Bradbury of Housing Association Magazine investigates:

There are around 4.5 million fuel poor homes in the UK today. There are also a further 21 million UK households suffering with poor energy efficiency - below B and C on an Energy Performance Certificate.

Fuel poverty is often thought of as a financial problem, but at best poses several health and wellbeing issues for an affected tenant and at worst claims lives. But with that being said, there are still steps that can be taken to keep homes as warm as possible and minimise the financial impact fuel poverty has on tenants.

The Government, local authorities and energy suppliers all provide grants to assist tenants in implementing energy saving measures, all they need do is ask… and know where to look!

A great place to start would be the Energy Saving Trust (EST) website and Simple Energy Advice. Here are a few that we found that landlords can advise their tenants on in a collective effort to keep fuel poverty at bay this winter:

Help for the vulnerable

According to Money Saving Expert, if you were born on or before 5th November 1953, then regardless of income, you can grab a one-off, tax-free winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300 from the Government. You usually get the money before Christmas every year, and it doesn't affect any other benefits you get, but exactly how much you'll receive depends on your circumstances.

You can get it automatically if you're on the state pension or in receipt of another social security benefit, such as pension credit, jobseeker's allowance (JSA), or income-related employment and support allowance (ESA).

Cold weather payment

The cold weather payment is a separate grant paid by the Government to older people and those on certain benefits, to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero in your area. It applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November 2018 and 31 March 2019.

Tenants can get £25 for every seven consecutive days of cold weather, payable into the same account their benefits are paid into, within 14 working days of the cold spell. Everyone in the UK that gets pension credit qualifies.

In addition, you're eligible if you get income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or universal credit (you're excluded if you're employed or self-employed) AND you either have a child who is disabled or under five living with you, or you get a disability or pensioner premium.

The warm home discount

The Warm Home Discount requires big suppliers, by law, to help vulnerable customers in the UK pay for energy. Those who are eligible are able to get a £140 rebate on energy bills between October and March.

The core group it helps are those who get pension credit. Households on a credit meter get the reduction on their bill; those with a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter will have to apply.

Think outside the box

Each home deals with heat and moisture differently, so it is important to look at each individual home as a whole system, thinking about measures that might affect the way it functions and how heat is distributed throughout the property. On average, about 25% of heat loss is through the roof, 35% through the walls, 15% through the floor and 25% from windows and draughts. With this in mind, here are 10 cheap and easy tips to keep the cold at bay:

1.      Ensure radiators are not blocked by furniture

2.      Lay down carpets and rugs to block cold air coming in through the floor and keep feet warm

3.      Hang thick, heavy curtains with linings to stop cold creeping in through the windows

4.      Fit draught excluders to letterboxes and outside doors

5.      Consider draught-stripping windows

6.      Increase loft insulation - in particular the loft hatch

7.      Install an air source heat pump to maximise the energy provided to the household and reduce run costs by as much as 10% of the UK national average

8.      Install programmable thermostats on your boiler and radiators

9.      Make sure heating and hot water pipes are well insulated

10.   Clear out gutters and drains to prevent mould and damp build up within a property

Joe Bradbury is assistant editor of Housing Association magazine