Depending where in the country you live, you might well have had a taste of it already. But at some point in practically every winter, conditions are likely to become icy as temperatures plummet – and sometimes stay that way for several weeks or even months at a time. When the temperature drops to these levels, your home may become especially vulnerable to some of the common risks of loss or damage – many of them associated with frozen pipes and the considerably damage that is caused once a thaw sets in.
At GSI Insurance, we have published a number of articles about preparing your home as wintry conditions begin to set in.
This is a time of year when you might want to make certain that your home insurance is not only up to date, but provides the level of cover your property requires. Even with that building and contents insurance in place, however, insurers still expect you to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of loss or damage – including that which might be caused by frozen pipes.
And that leads neatly on to how you might avoid frozen pipes in the first place:
- Water UK advises you to make sure to insulate all water tanks and cylinders and put lagging on all pipes, paying special attention to those running through the roof space and on bends, valves and fittings where it might prove trickier to ensure pipes are effectively lagged;
- one of the most effective precautions is to keep your central heating system turned on and maintain an even ambient temperature – if you are leaving the house empty for the holidays, it might seem wasteful to be heating your home when you are not there, but it is likely to be a lot cheaper than having to pay for the damage caused by burst pipes and flooded rooms;
- this also means making sure that your central heating boiler has been recently serviced – the last thing you want is for it to break down in the dead of winter;
- if you are going to be leaving your home unoccupied for any length of time, you might want to think about shutting off the main supply stopcock and draining down the entire water system;
- in any event, make sure you know where the stopcock is (typically under the sink in the kitchen) and that you are able to turn it clockwise without it sticking to shut down the water supply;
- make the most of the heat you are providing by excluding all possible draughts and keeping doors closed to those rooms which are going to be left unheated;
- it may be a good idea to fill empty bottles and flasks with drinking water for use in emergencies if a vital supply pipe freezes.
However careful your preparations and precautions, the worst might still come to the worst and a pipe freezes. The first step is to turn off the supply at the stopcock and then check whether or not the pipe has burst. If it hasn’t, you may be able to thaw it by using warm towels or a hair dryer on its lowest setting – but never a naked flame or blowtorch.
If the pipe has burst, again close the stopcock and open all the taps in the house to reduce the amount of flooding from escaping water. Mop up the water that has already leaked out. Read more here.