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How to prepare for the coldest winter ever

How to prepare for the coldest winter ever

Category: Home insurance

Updated: 02/12/2015
First Published: 02/12/2015

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Winter is well and truly here, and it's only going to get colder in the months to come. In fact, meteorologists are predicting the coldest winter on record, with some expecting temperatures to be as low as -20°C, but will your home cope with it?

Data from SunLife shows that there are already more home insurance claims in the winter than at any other time of year, but given the weather we could be facing in the coming weeks and months, there's a chance that the claims tally could rise further still. That's why it's so important to be prepared: SunLife is urging homeowners to ensure that their property is ready for it, and they've compiled several tips to help:

  • Put your heating on a timer if you're jetting off on a winter break, or if you want total control, consider using a thermostat that works with heating apps such as Hive or Nest. These allow you to remotely control your heating from your phone, so if there's a cold snap back home, you can switch your heating on to stop your pipes from freezing.
  • In the same vein, try to keep the heating on every day, whether you're away from home or not. Ideally, keep it on a low setting at all times, as letting your home get too cold and then warming it up quickly can be bad for the pipes and can even lead to damp as a result of condensation.
  • Make sure you know where your stopcock is, as if the worst were to happen and the pipes were to burst, you want to be able to turn the water off as quickly as possible to prevent your home from flooding.
  • Check your roof to ensure that everything's as it should be. This should be a core part of winter preparation anyway, but it's even more important given the weather that's been predicted, because even a slightly loose roof tile could spell disaster in a winter storm.
  • Keep drains and gutters clear to minimise the risk of water damage, and check for damp in the upstairs rooms or ceilings, as this could be a sign of a leak. Also, keep an eye on the trees in your garden and make sure they're properly cut back, and make sure to repair any unsafe walls or fences to prevent damage being done in high winds.
  • Insulate your pipes (and everything else). Insulation is a must at this time of year to keep the heat in as much as possible, but don't forget about the pipes. Burst pipes are one of the most common winter problems according to SunLife, but you can reduce the risk of them freezing by ensuring that they, and the water tank, are properly insulated. Check the outside taps for any drips, too, as if a trickle of water were to freeze, it could completely block the pipe.
  • You should always service your boiler on a regular basis anyway, but make sure to get it booked in before it gets too cold, as there'd be nothing worse than it breaking down in the depths of winter – not only would it be freezing, but it could be costly to put right, which you probably won't want if you're trying to pay for Christmas.
  • Check your home insurance policy so you know exactly what it covers – ideally, it should include cover for winter-related damage – and what the contact details are should you need to make a claim.

"Weather forecasters have said that we could be in for one of the worst winters in 100 years, and bitterly cold temperatures, wind, rain and snow can do serious damage," said Simon Stanney, director of insurance at SunLife. "Prevention is always better than cure, and although there is nothing we can do about the winter weather, there are steps we can take to make sure our homes are more resistant to it [and can cope with] whatever the weather has to throw at it."

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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.