1. Frozen pipes
Burst pipes will not flood until the thaw sets in – but by then it’s too late to spot the problem. Check the loft and outhouse for any exposed water pipes and lag them with polystyrene sleeves or wrap with insulation. Don’t forget garden taps.
Water tanks in the loft need jackets to keep them warm.
2. Loft insulation
Make sure loft insulation is stripped out from under water tanks or pipes. Rising heat will help stop them freezing. Adding more insulation in the loft is cheap and quick – and keeps heating costs down.
3. Empty property
Leave the heating on the lowest setting if you are going away for a few days – it’s cheaper and more effective to have a constant low temperature than to switch heating on and off. The suggested minimum is 54F (12C).
For properties standing empty for a long time, consider draining down the water systems.
4. Going on holiday
Check you home contents and buildings insurance does not have an ‘empty home’ restriction – many are 30 or 60 days. Tell your insurer if you are going away for a prolonged spell and try and arrange for a friend or neighbour to pop in to check your home.
5. Locate the stopcock
Find your stopcock and check you can turn the valve on and off. If you can’t find the inside stopcock, check the street for the mains stopcock – if you have a water meter, the mains valve will be in the same place.
Don’t forget that the stopcock may also turn off your neighbour’s water supply if you live in a terrace.
Let someone know where the stopcock is if you are going away.
6. Check for missing roof tiles
Missing roof tiles let the wind under the roof and can rip off a larger area. They also let rain, snow and cold in and more heat out.
7. Open the loft hatch
If the weather turns really cold, try opening the loft hatch to let warm circulate and keep the pipes warm. This is not heat efficient, but saves a deluge from thawing pipes.
8. Sweep the chimney
If you have an open fire, sweep the chimney before lighting to make sure old bird’s nests or other debris do not start a chimney fire
9. Watch ashes and embers
Lighting a fire soon warms a cold room and the chimney is like a radiator for the rest of the house – but make sure the fire is safe if left unattended. Leaving logs piled next to a stove or fire can often lead to them bursting in to flames without warning.
10. Keep the warm in
A lot of heat escapes through the windows, so draught proof them and keep the curtains drawn in rooms you don’t use during the day as well as at night.
Don’t forget to check out your home insurance cover to make sure no special terms or conditions mean you can’t make a claim – and if you have no cover, check out some low cost insurance that covers the basic if the worst should happen.