Be prepared for winter at home

As the winter period of extreme weather sets in, we share some guidance to help your customers protect their homes.

During extreme weather events, damage caused by water escaping inside the home is one of the most frequent causes of home insurance claims. Freezing temperatures can mean freezing pipes – and an ensuing flood should they burst.

Your customers shouldn’t let frozen pipes or a thawing disaster ruin their winter; they can lessen costly disruption and damage to their belongings by preparing for the change.


Going away?

  • It isn’t worth lowering the heating too much. It may save on the heating bill, but is it worth the risk of a frozen pipe? Your customers should leave their central heating on low at around 15°c to prevent existing water from freezing.
  • An alternative solution, particularly in the event of extended absence from the home, is to drain the plumbing system entirely. Your customers should seek professional advice should they consider this appropriate.
  • Your customers should ensure that pipes in unheated areas like lofts and, where accessible, under floor spaces are insulated with high quality foam lagging.
  • Water tanks in lofts should also be insulated, but your customers should avoid insulating under the tank as heat from the house will help prevent it from freezing.
  • Your customers should have someone keep an eye out on their home, and ensure they know where the stopcock is should they find a leak.


Home improvements in the pipeline?

If your customers are planning any DIY, they should consider the following;

  • Avoid drilling or hammering nails in to pipes by using a pipe detection device; they can’t always predict where pipes are located!
  • They should try to source all plumbing materials from the same supplier, particularly when working with plastic plumbing as it is more prone to slight gaps in joints and fittings.
  • If working in a ‘water zone’ area, such as a shower tray, make seals and joints as watertight and sturdy as possible.


Want to keep on top of things?

Year-round maintenance will reap rewards come winter, so your customers should;

  • Try to make a routine of checking plumbing joints for leaks every so often, remembering those which are hidden such as on dishwashers and washing machines. During inspections they should keep an eye out for green discolouration on copper pipes as this suggests a leak, and should pay special attention to plastic plumbing joints as they erode quicker than metal ones.
  • Insulate their loft to protect pipes and, in severe winter conditions, consider leaving their loft door open to heat the space.
  • Prevent their stopcock from stiffening by testing it from time to time.
  • Make regular inspections of water tank ball valves for signs of erosion.
  • Try not to procrastinate and should fix even slight leaks as soon as possible to avoid more serious issues later.
  • Keep a close eye out for frozen pipes; tell-tale signs include no water coming from the faucet, frost or ice on the outside of the pipe, and bulging of the pipe.


Discovered a frozen pipe?

If your customers act fast, a frozen pipe does not always mean a burst pipe if they;

  • Turn off the stopcock.
  • Remove any furniture or equipment from the area which may get damaged by melting ice and water.
  • Open the tap closest to the area, and begin gently warming the pipe with a hairdryer or hot water bottle, starting from the end closest to the tap and working away from the faucet.

Remember, although damage to pipes occurs when they freeze, bursts only become apparent when the pipe begins to thaw.


Sprung a leak?

Your customers should turn off the stopcock and drain the system by opening taps in baths and sinks.