HOUSEHOLDS leaving their homes empty over Christmas have been warned to avoid traps that could end up costing them as much as £41,000 when they return.
Letting your house get too cold or stuffy while you're away over Christmas could land you with a huge bill as ailments like mould and damp can cause lasting damage to your home.
Removing mould from a damp home costs around £30 an hour or up to £3,000 for a whole home, according to Checkatrade.
And leaks from burst frozen water pipes cost an average of £38,000 per claim to repair last winter, insurer LV found.
James Longley, managing director at Utility Bidder, explained you need to keep your home above at least 14 to 15 degrees to ward off problems.
"This kind of temperature will maintain a warm enough environment to help prevent areas of dampness or mould from surfacing," he said.
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But leaving the heating on, even on a timer, could land you with an unnecessarily large bill too.
Running your central heating from a standard boiler could cost around £1.68 an hour at current energy costs, or roughly £23.50 to run for two hours per day for one week in a typical home.
This cost could increase depending on the size of your property and how energy-efficient it is.
For example, older homes or those with more exposed walls are harder to keep warm than new-build or terraced houses.
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Thankfully, there are a number of gadgets available to help manage your home's temperature and appliances from a distance.
Some systems let you control your thermostat remotely such as Hive or Google Nest and while they aren't the cheapest, they could save you a lot of money – and stress – in the long run.
Hive's thermostat device costs £149 on Amazon, but bear in mind it will need to be wired up to your home, which could cost extra if you aren't sure how to do it yourself.
Hive states the device can set up to six daily time slots, boost your heating for up to six hours, turn on frost protection to prevent your pipes from freezing or simply turn your heating on and off remotely whenever you please.
Frost protection settings automatically turn on your heating for you if it detects a drop in temperature to a point where water starts to freeze.
If you're going away for a long time – more than a week – it could be worth turning your water off altogether, according to British Gas.
If you want to just control one radiator, consider getting a smart radiator thermostat.
These can be attached to one radiator to control it remotely.
So, if just one part of your house gets colder than the rest, you can boost the temperature without heating your whole house.
You can bag a quality brand for less than £40 on Amazon, saving you a lot of money in the long run if used every winter.
Stuffy air in your home can also contribute to damp and mould forming, as there is no ventilation to keep air flowing in an empty house (unless you leave the windows open!).
You could use a smart plug to keep a fan running some of the time to get air moving around your house.
Smart plugs can't operate devices, but they control the flow of power.
So, if you get a fan that can be left on an "on" setting, the smart plug can turn it on and off for you remotely.
Beware some fans need to be actually turned on by a button on the device, so a smart plug will be able to turn it off, but not back on again.
A fan heater could also be a way to ventilate your home while adding some warmth.
Amazon's own-brand smart plug, which allows you to control gadgets through your Alexa app, is currently on offer for just £15.
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The devices are also simple to use without requiring an electrician, unlike whole-home setups like Hive.
According to Amazon, you just need to plug it into your socket, plug your fan/heater into the smart plug and then you can schedule it on your Alexa app.
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