It’s turning out to be a tricky winter. Facing the energy crisis, with ever rising bills to paid out of limited resources, the last thing we need is another bill for damage from frozen or burst pipes.
As winter arrives the inconvenience, distress and expense of frozen or burst pipes as temperatures fall is an added expense. What can you do to protect your home from water damage? Here’s a few hints and tips from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Frozen and burst pipes are capable of causing significant disruption and serious damage to properties, even from only a minor rupture. Last year the average cost of weather-related home insurance claim for burst pipes was £9,300.
A cold winter snap can lead to a surge in pipe problems – when the ‘Beast from the East’ hit in 2018 it led to a tenfold increase in burst pipe claims compared to the previous year.
Callum Tanner, ABI’s Manager, General Insurance, said: “We understand the financial pressure which rising energy bills are having on many households. Taking a few simple measures now can reduce the disruption, distress and expense caused by pipe problems this winter, while keeping your heating bills as manageable as possible. Of course, insurers are poised to help if the worst happens, but prevention is always better than cure.”
To reduce the risk of frozen pipes this winter, the ABI recommends that you take some simple steps like insulating water pipes and water tanks in the loft and using draught excluders around doors to help keep your home warm; this will also help to reduce energy bills. More information can be found here: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/
If you have a smart thermostat, most will have an anti-frost setting to keep your home heated to a very minimal temperature that will stop pipes from freezing. If you don’t have a smart thermostat, most radiators will have a setting with a snowflake symbol – turn to this setting to allow minimal water flow between pipes and radiators to prevent freezing. If you are gong away, even for just a few days, consider setting the heating on a timer.
Know where your stopcock, that turns off the incoming water supply, is and test that it works. It is usually found under the kitchen sink. If you cannot locate it, ask a neighbour or seek advice from an approved plumber.
If you’re going on holiday or leaving your home unoccupied, consider turning off the water at the stopcock to reduce the risk of pipes freezing and bursting. Also make sure to check your home insurance policy to see if there are any restrictions in cover or specific requirements if your home is left unoccupied for more than a specified period of time, such as 30 days or more.
Repair any dripping taps. This will help prevent water from freezing (and save water!)
If your pipes do freeze the ABI’s advice is to:
- Immediately turn the water mains off via the stopcock. Wait for the pipes to warm up or you can try and thaw them with a hot water bottle.
- Do not attempt to dislodge the ice using a hammer or melt it with a blow touch, it is highly likely that this will cause more damage.
- Move any possessions, such as furniture or clothing, which are near frozen pipes in case the pipe bursts.
If your pipe bursts the ABI advises:
- Turn off the water at the stopcock.
- Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations.
- Open all taps to drain the system.
- Move any possessions, such as furniture or clothing, to prevent further damage to property.
In both instances, contact your insurance broker or insurer straight away to seek advice; many operate 24-hour help lines. They will advise on the next steps to take and help to arrange for professional repairs to be carried out.
Heating your home safely
Open fires and candles may seem like a good way to keep your heating bills down but they will significantly increase the risk of home and possessions being damaged or destroyed by fire. https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/safety/the-home/candles/
If using an open fireplace, ensure that the chimney and flues are inspected by a specialist and cleaned if they have not been used for some time. Make sure you use a fireguard. Your local fire brigade should be able to give you some advice about heating your home safely.