With the snow set to return it is expected we will also see a return in the number of burst pipes caused from the freezing conditions. According to research by AXA insurance the last two winters (2009 & 2010) cost insurance companies approximately £1bn in claims caused by escaped water, with the average contents claim of £6,100 and an average building claim cost of a whopping £19,000.
However there are several measures you can take during these wintry conditions to protect your home and your pipes from suffering such damage:
- Leave your heating on at a low temperature as this helps prevent water freezing in the pipes
- Insulate your pipes and add lagging to your cold water tank
- Seal any holes in the walls that let in cold air, such as those drilled for TV aerials and satellite equipment
- If you have cupboards in which there are pipes, leaving the doors open will allow warm air from the house to circulate around them
- When going away from home for a few days or weeks drain down your water system, that way should a pipe burst you wont come home to a flooded house
Should the worst happen and your pipes do freeze then you will need to thaw them out. First of all you need to locate where the pipe is frozen, this is often identified by the outside of the pipe being frosted or icy (if the pipe is close to bursting it may appear bulged). It can then be thawed by applying gentle heat from a hairdryer or small portable heater. Should the pipe burst, or have already burst before you got the chance to thaw it out, then you must shut off the water supply immediately to minimise damage.
This can be when things go from bad to worse, as it is estimated that approximately one third of homeowners do not know where their stopcock is located and in many other cases the stopcock is hidden away in inaccessible places or is simply too stiff to turn (this is an especially prominent problem for the elderly). Many homeowners have since made the change to use Surestop Water Switch – operating like a light switch it offers a quick and easily accessible way to turn off your water supply. You can read more about Surestop here.