You cannot predict nature, and after viewing the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy across the East coast of the US this week, our UK readers are probably counting their blessings that they live in a fairly temperate zone. However, the UK is not immune to the occasional burst of extreme weather, as the last few winters have proved. With motorists stranded on roads overnight, and heating failing for days on end; it may seem like small fry compared to the hurricane, but this year we have already experienced flooding and torrential rain. So it makes sense to prepare your home for any worse case scenarios. Have a read through our check list below, and protect your home this winter.
1. Check your boiler
What’s the first thing you tend to do when the temperature drops? Turn on the heating, but imagine if it didn’t work? No hot water, no baths or showers and no heating. So your first thing on your to do list should be to make sure you get your boiler serviced ahead of the cold weather. And have it checked by a Corgi registered expert who has a gas safety card. It might also be prudent to get boiler cover. There are different levels available, from policies that simply cover the boiler and its controls, right through to complete home emergency packages. However, if you own your own home you may already have this covered in your buildings and contents cover so check the small print of your contents cover to see if any boiler or home emergency cover is included.
2. Lag your pipes
Burst pipes are a common hazard as we head into zero and freezing temperatures. This happens when water inside your pipes turns to ice, expands and causes cracks. You can prevent this however by purchasing pipe lagging from any DIY store to ensure your pipes are kept ice-free and insulated during any but the coldest of cold snaps. You can also get waterproof lagging for your outdoor pipes. And don’t forget the pipes in your attic. Some people think that as hot air rises, these pipes are safe from bursting, but attics are typically very cold. If you can’t get up there to lag them then consider leaving the loft door open for a few hours each day to allow some warmer air to circulate and reach cold areas.
3. Get your loft insulated
Did you know that you lose around a quarter of heat through your roof if it is not insulated and that by insulating your home you could knock up to £175 a year off your bills? And you might be able to get free loft insulation from the government or one of the big six energy companies, but hurry as the offer from British Gas expires on November 30 (although it is also available to non-customers).
4. Get your roof inspected
Why? Because any tiles that have blown off in the winds or have become displaced will allow water to ingress and all it takes is just one torrential downpour to cause considerable damage not only to your property, but also to any contents underneath a leak. Plus, you might find that insurers won’t pay out if they suspect that the problem has been pre-existing. While you are up there, check that your gutters are free from leaf debris, this is particularly important at this time of year, as leaves will collect and prevent water from running away into the drains.
5. Make dodgy trees safe
Have a good inspection of the trees in your garden and if necessary, call in a tree surgeon. With all this rain the earth has become very unstable and roots may now be exposed and trees that were quite robust in the summer could only take a few wintery blasts to topple over. Make sure you keep your trees trimmed and maintained all year around.
6. Be prepared for flooding
We have already seen widespread flooding this year, back in September, and according to the Environment Agency, one in six homes in England and Wales is at risk of flooding. The key with flooding is to be prepared and plan ahead. Get updates on weather by signing up to Floodline Warnings Direct, which will alert you by phone, email or text, and check the Environment Agency website for further news. Make sure that you have an emergency survival kit at the ready if you know a flood is on its way. It should contain drinking water, high energy food, a torch and important phone numbers. Make sure your mobile is fully charged and that all the family are clear on what actions to take.