When the weather gets colder there is a real risk that water in one or more of your pipes could freeze – especially if your home is left empty for a period.
If a pipe freezes, it can expand and burst. If water escapes, it can then cause serious damage to your property, including flooding and broken boilers.
According to insurers, "escape of water" makes up a large proportion of their claims at this time of year, so you need to be on your guard.
Read our eight tips for keeping warm in winter
The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of your pipes wreaking havoc this winter should we experience a big freeze.
1. Keep your heating on
A good way to protect your pipes during the colder months is by keeping your heating on constant, but at a lower-than-normal temperature. If you’re heading off on holiday over winter, keep the heating on at a low temperature (around 12°C-15°C). Also keep your loft hatch open slightly to let the warmer air circulate, as this can prevent the pipes in your loft from freezing.
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2. Check insulation
Make sure insulation is in place on water pipes, and also in your loft and other areas of water storage, such as a water tank. The more insulated your pipes are, the better protected they will be.
3. Repair dripping taps
Repair dripping taps and replace washers where needed. If you don’t do this and the tap freezes, it may block the pipe and cause damage.
Read John Conlin on unsticking a leaky tap
4. Leave cabinet doors open
Keep the doors on kitchen and bathroom cabinets open, as this will allow warmer air to circulate and reach pipes that are under sinks and next to the outside wall.
Find out how to protect your home in winter
5. Thaw out frozen pipes
If a pipe has frozen, thaw it out gently using hot water bottles or a hairdryer.
6. What should you do if you discover your pipes have burst?
If you suspect you have a frozen pipe, first check if your neighbours have water, as it could be an issue with the local supply.
If they do have water, you need to take action. First off, turn off the stop-cock, and then call in a plumber to help you fix the problem with your pipes.
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7. Check your cover
All of this should serve as a timely reminder to ensure you have adequate home insurance in place to protect your home during the winter months.
Dig out your paperwork and check you are covered for common incidents such as burst pipes.
Generally speaking, damage caused by “escape of water” is covered as standard under most policies.
8. Check the small print
That said, it is worth double-checking the small print, as burst pipes may not be covered as standard when properties are left unoccupied without heat, or unfurnished.
Revisit your policy to ensure you’re completely familiar with the clauses involved and the level of cover you have. This should help avoid any unexpected costs should the worst happen.
Read our 12 ways to cut your household bills