Stay safe, toasty, damp-free and comfy: How home tech can help prepare your house for winter

Get ready for the cold season with these essential gadgets for keeping your house warm, cooking your tea and making your living room a sanctuary from the chilly weather.

Winter is on the way – temperatures are plummeting and the days are getting shorter. Which means less time spent outside and more time tucked up at home.

Technology can help you get your house ready for winter. Whether it’s saving money on your energy bills, setting the mood with ambient lighting or controlling the temperature with your phone, we’ll show you how tech can help you survive the cold season.

[Read more: What is a smart home?]

Raise the temperature from your phone

Nest Learning Thermostat

Smart thermostats are revolutionising how we stay warm during the winter. Not only are they more convenient than traditional models, they’re more efficient to run, too, saving you money while being better for the environment.

Models like Nest, Tado and Hive let you control the temperature from your phone, wherever you are. Woken up on a freezing winter’s morning to find you can see your breath? No problem – turn the heating up without leaving the relative warmth of your bed. Coming home after a chilly walk on a crisp winter’s day? Start the heating up on your way, so the house is toasty warm by the time you arrive.

The systems are more efficient, too. For example, Nest displays a green leaf icon to tell you when it’s set at an energy-saving temperature. So unless it’s freezing, choose a leaf temperature to save yourself some money and help the environment into the bargain.

Smart thermostat makers claim their systems can save you hundreds of pounds over the course of a year. Add in their extra convenience, and they’re guaranteed a warm welcome.

Get light years ahead

Philips Hue Insigne

Today’s lighting systems are certainly futuristic. As phone-based controls put millions of colour options at your fingertips, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of a science fiction film.

Philips Hue is the best known smart lighting system, but there are cheaper options available, like LightwaveRF, LIFX and TP Link. They all let you control your lights from your mobile device, even if you’re not at home. That means you can come home to a well-lit house, making you feel safer on those dark winter evenings.

They’re much more versatile than standard lights, too. You can dim them to your exact preference using the incremental on-screen controls, and change the colour of some. That way, you can set the mood for entertaining friends, hosting a New Year’s Eve party or just spending a quiet night in front of the telly.

They can even help you stay healthy mentally. During the dark winter months, without much daylight, we’re all susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – this is a depressive state brought on by a lack of light. If it’s gloomy outside, crank up your smart lights’ brightness settings and you’re less likely to suffer.

Regulate the temperature throughout the home

Dyson Hot + Cool Link

It’s an age-old quandary – some people feel the cold, while others always seem to be hot. Some rooms of the house are also naturally cooler or hotter than others. So how do you keep everyone happy?

Some fans can can also work as heaters, like the Dyson Hot + Cool Link. If one person is sweltering while the others freeze, or vice-versa, place it in their room and let them moderate their own temperature. Not only will it promote domestic harmony, it’s also much cheaper than heating the whole house for one person’s benefit.

Become master of the house using voice control

Google Home Hub bedside

You’re staying in more, so why not make life easier for yourself with a voice assistant? Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home  all come with personal assistants built in, letting you check the news headlines and weather forecast, listen to music, set timers, reminders and more, all without lifting a finger.

They can control your smart home appliances like your thermostat, lights and smart TV, too. And some have screens (like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub), so you can make video calls and see footage from your smart security cameras. They really are the nerve centre of the smart home.

Never fight over the remote control again

A family watching Netflix

When everyone's gathered around the telly, it’s rare you all agree on what to watch. But that’s no longer a problem, thanks to modern streaming technology.

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BT TV can all be streamed to a range of devices, including tablets, smartphones, laptops, dedicated streaming dongles and of course smart TVs. That way, if you want to watch Bake Off but everyone else is set on Stacey Dooley Investigates, you can watch what you want on a TV in another room, or just plug in a pair of headphones and watch it on your phone or tablet without even leaving the lounge.

Upgrade your TV

Couple amazed by TV

Lots of people upgrade their TV at this time of year. If you haven’t bought a new one for a while, you might be bamboozled by all the new technology that’s found in them nowadays. If so, our article can help.

4K and HDR are the two main technologies to emerge in recent years. They both make for much clearer, sharper picture quality, but depending on what you watch, you might not need them. However, buying a set that has both will ensure it’s future-proofed for when more channels and services support the technologies. That way, your shiny new set won’t be out of date by the time you get it home from the shop.

A TV is a big purchase – next to a house and a car, it could be the most expensive thing you buy – so you’ll want to get it right. Make sure you choose the right screen size for your needs and if you're baffled by screen technology, our TV tech terms guide explains all. 

Warm up cold nights with a hot meal

Crock-Pot Multi-Cooker

There’s nothing quite like a hot meal on a cold night. The Crock-Pot Multi-Cooker is a great option – it lets you roast, sauté, steam, bake, sear and slow cook, all in the same pot. And its big 5.6-litre capacity is ideal for batch cooking and entertaining alike.

Soup is also a great option, especially for taking with you to a fireworks display or other outdoor event. The Morphy Richards 501020 Total Control Soup Maker has a portion control feature, letting you make just the right amount for two, three or four people. You’ll never waste a carrot again.

There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of homemade bread. The Russell Hobbs Compact Bread Maker is much cheaper than some models, and gives you professional results every time.

Avoid damp squibs

Ebac 3850e

Not only does a dehumidifier dry out any damp in your house, it’s great for drying washing without hanging it in the garden where it can get soaked by a sudden downpour. Plus it will raise the temperature of the room by a degree or two, which is always welcome in a cold spell.

With its 21-litre capacity and dedicated laundry-drying mode, the Ebac 3850e is one of the best around.

Look after your plants

Vivosun Heat Mat

Plants feel the cold too, you know. This Vivosun heat mat will warm their roots to 10 to 20 degrees above the ambient temperature, increasing the likelihood of growing seedlings and cuttings. It’s waterproof too, it wipes clean and can be placed in all different sizes of seedling bowl.

Don’t slip on the driveway

Car on snow

A driveway like an ice rink will not only slow you down in the morning, it could prove potentially dangerous if you slip and have a bad fall. One of the most effective methods of de-icing is with heat mats – though these are pricey, and have to be installed when the driveway is laid, so won’t be suitable for everyone.

Failing that, a liberal sprinkling of rock salt will do the trick. Though beware – it contains cyanide and chloride, which can both harm pets and plants.

[Read more: The connected and smart home explained]

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