Over 9 million UK workers have had to call in sick, take unplanned holiday or arrive late to deal with winter-related home emergencies. That’s an awful lot of frozen pipes and broken heaters to deal with. And no doubt a huge sum of cash to part with for repairs.
Do yourself a favour, take steps to prepare your home now before the winter weather really kicks in.
To help you avoid the suffering of home emergencies this winter, we’ve created The Ultimate Guide to Winter Home Protection.
In our new guide, we’ll explain the cause and effect of the most common winter home emergencies. You’ll learn:
- Reduce the risk of storm damage
- How to prevent frozen pipes
- What to do with a frozen pipe
- What to do if a frozen pipe bursts
- What to do with empty properties in winter
- Saving money on energy bills
Ready to put a stop to mounting repair bills and have peace of mind over winter?
Read The Ultimate Guide to Winter Home Protection today and get a quote online.
Free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Winter Home ProtectionDownload ebook
The cold hard facts
30% of people in work – over 9 million Brits – have had to call in sick, take unplanned holiday or arrive late to deal with winter-related home emergencies. – British Gas
The UK gets on average 23.7 days of snow fall or sleet a year, and Met Office statistics for Winter 2015 show that England and Wales had its wettest winter! – Met Office
If you turn the thermostat down by just one degree you could save £65 a year on heating costs. – MoneySupermarket
An average claim for burst pipe damage is £7,500. – ABI
Reduce the risk of storm damage
Home insurance isn’t designed to fix things which aren’t properly maintained. By making repairs now you can reduce the risk of storm damage to your home. Simply securing loose slates and removing dead tree branches can save you cash and hassle later down the line by avoiding unnecessary damage.
If a storm is heading your way, take a look at our handy checklist to help ensure your home is protected. Or, for big jobs, consider hiring a professional.
Prepare your home for a storm
- Close all windows and doors, especially large doors such as garage or patio doors.
- Put garden furniture in a garage or shed, or bring it inside the house. Remember your washing line poles too.
- Check that TV aerials and satellite dishes are securely fastened. Secure any loose cables and electrical wires.
- Clear gutters of leaves and debris. Take care if you’re using a ladder, especially in high winds!
- Check there are no loose roof slates or loose coverings on sheds and outbuildings. Check chimneys and repair any broken brickwork.
- Clear ground drains of leaves to make sure that rainwater can flow freely into the drains. Keep an eye on outdoor hose pipes too, to prevent freezing.
- Secure fences, repair garden walls and fix gates that don't close firmly so they are not damaged by strong winds.
- Park your cars in a garage or away from trees and fences.
- Remove dead tree branches so they don’t fall.
Prevent frozen pipes
Temperatures can drop quickly in winter, which can cause the pipes in your property to freeze or burst. The ensuing damage can really be a strain on you and your finances.
Homeowners should always make sure that this type of home emergency is covered by their home insurance policy for peace of mind.
Why does this happen?
- Insufficient insulation
- Exposure to draughts where the pipe meets the property walls
- Insufficient circulation of warm air throughout the property
When water freezes, it expands inside the pipes. This puts pressure on the metal as well as building up a big ice blockage. The pipe will eventually burst if it is not treated.
What can be done to avoid frozen pipes?
Counterintuitive though it may seem, leaving the tap running very slightly will help to prevent freezing.
Prevention is better than cure, so take the time to check and maintain any issues and weatherproof your home before Winter hits:
- Check and improve the insulation in your loft and beside water tanks.
- Make sure that pipes are wrapped in pipe lagging, which acts as insulation.
- Check that everyone in the house knows where the water stopcock is and that they know to turn it off in an emergency. This will stop the flow of water and limit the damage.
- Leave the heating on a low temperature or set it by a timer to turn on a few times throughout the day, especially if you are going on holiday.
- Ask a neighbour or a friend to check on the property at least once a week if you are going to be away for more than a few days, and definitely if you are away for over 30 consecutive days.
Temperatures can drop quickly
Rapidly decreasing temperatures can cause the pipes in your property to freeze and burst. The ensuing damage can really be a strain on you, your family and your finances.
You should always make sure that this type of home emergency is covered by your home insurance policy for peace of mind.
6 easy steps to manage a frozen pipe
- Identify the blockage by feeling the pipe. The root of the problem will be obvious when you reach a section that is colder than the rest.
- Turn off the stopcock to stop the flow of water.
- Open the tap closest to the frozen pipe in order to allow the excess water to escape when it melts away.
- Do some damage control by moving furniture and belongings out of the way. Roll back the carpets, lift the curtains and cover electronic devices in case the pipe bursts.
- Let your frozen pipe defrost slowly. Do not use a naked flame, hairdryer or the central heating. If this does not work, then you should contact an emergency plumber or your insurer if you have home emergency cover.
- Assess the pipe for damage before turning the water back on.
What to do if a pipe bursts
Hopefully you will have been able to spot a frozen pipe before it bursts in your home.
If that’s not the case then you will have to manage the mess. First things first, contact your home insurance provider.
Depending on the type of cover that you have (and how bad the water damage is) your insurer may cover the costs of sending out a plumber, replacing your possessions as ‘old for new’ or provide alternative accommodation.
Water can leave plenty of issues behind, least of all being the need to soak up all excess leaks and dry out your rooms and belongings.
Unfortunately there’s no quick fix for this, and you will have to dry out the property by leaving doors and windows open for air flow, turning the heating on or investing in a dehumidifier.
Keeping your damaged possessions is worthwhile too, as your insurance provider may ask to see these (or photos) so as to be able to process your claim accurately.
Energy saving tips
Refer to your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This is a requirement for all properties when they are built, sold or let. The EPC provides details on the energy performance of the property so you can take steps to improve it.
If you’re not sure how to access this information, visit https://www.epcregister.com to search for your property.
Reduce energy costs
Most homeowners are at home after work in the evenings. To reduce energy costs while you are not at home, lower the heating temperature or set a timer for it to come on for short intervals throughout the day.
Seal cracks to reduce draughts around the house. For instance, use weather-stripping around windows and doors.
You could also change to heavier lined curtains for the winter months, which will also help to keep draughts at bay.
If you use a fireplace over winter, make sure that you have taken the time to clean the flue vent or replace any necessary filters. When the fireplace is not in use, the damper should be closed - otherwise it’s just like leaving a window wide open to the elements!
Is your boiler covered?
Getting your boiler serviced is really important.
No one wants to be without heating or hot water when the temperature drops, so it’s worth checking whether boiler cover is included in your home insurance policy.
Call our friendly agents on 0330 660 1000 to add this cover to your policy.
Long-term empty homes
4 steps to protect your empty property
If you are leaving your home unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days, make sure that you check your policy details to be sure that your home insurance cover is still in place.
Remember to check any endorsements and the terms and conditions.
- Turn your water supply off at the stopcock, unless the heating system is powered by a condensing boiler that requires constant pressure.
- If leaving the heating on to prevent pipes freezing, make sure that it is always at a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius.
- If you are planning to simply turn the heating off while you are away then don’t forget to drain the hot water and heating systems so that there is no water left in the pipes to freeze.
- Make sure your empty property is checked regularly. Ask a family member, friend, neighbour or key holding service to visit the house every few days.
Upgrade your cover
Add Upgraded Home Emergency cover to your HomeProtect policy today!
Upgrade to Full Home Emergency cover and you can call our 24/7 Home Emergency line if you have an emergency situation, with no impact to your No Claims Bonus.
This upgrade also includes emergency repairs to your heating system, repairs if you have a burst pipe, your drains get blocked or you require alternative accommodation.