It seems like only yesterday that you fired up the barbecue one last time, but the dying embers of our Indian summer have finally flickered for the last time.
Now the nights are drawing in rapidly and the temperatures are starting to dip it’s time to prepare your home for winter.
We’ve put together a few easy ways you can winter-proof your home.
Tidying Up Outside
Before the cold snap really bites, it’s a good idea to check your roof for loose tiles and to unblock your gutters, making sure you clear the ends of your guttering where debris often collects.
Overflowing gutters can soak patches of nearby walls, which can cause serious damage once the temperature drops below zero and the water freezes. In the depths of winter icicles can form where gutters are blocked, giving you a good indicator of problem areas that need clearing.
This is also the time to check your garden for potential trip hazards that could get hidden under snow, and store any tools, toys and gardening equipment inside away from damaging frosts. One of your last gardening jobs before winter hits should be to check that there are no tree branches touching the outside of your house, as these could cause damage in storms and provide an area for water to gather on your walls. It’s worth checking the brickwork underneath any creeping plants too, making sure the bricks and mortar are intact and free of cracks which could be worsened by frozen water and freezing temperatures.
Getting The Best Insurance
Winter-proofing your house can save you money on energy and repair bills and ensure that you keep warm throughout the coldest months of the year – but the key is to find and fix problems before they are made worse by bad weather.
Whether or not your home is completely winter-proofed, you need to be sure that your home insurance covers a quick and complete solution for any potential problems. Before the cold weather arrives, it’s a good idea to get your buildings and contents insurance documents out and to make sure that you’re covered for every likely winter emergency, and look for alternative cover if you aren’t satisfied.
Adrian Flux covers all kinds of homes and tailors each policy to individual homeowners, meaning you have peace of mind that your house is covered should the ravages of winter force you to make a claim.
If you’re planning to go away over the festive period leaving your home unoccupied for more than 30 days, make sure you check with your insurer to make sure you have the right level of cover. Asking a friend to check your property regularly can also mean you’ve got a trouble-shooter on hand if there’s an emergency.
Protecting Your Pipes
Water pipes are especially vulnerable to cold weather, and many of us will have heard horror stories of a friend or family member’s pipes bursting and causing huge amounts of damage to their home.
Both inside and outside of your house, you should make sure that water pipes will always remain above freezing temperature, checking that lagging is intact on indoor pipes and that outdoor ones are covered with some form of insulation – even everyday bubble wrap will do in a pinch.
Make sure you know where your stop taps are so that you’re prepared if you find yourself in a worst-case scenario, and repair any dripping taps now before the worst of winter arrives. And, if you plan to leave your home for a few days during a cold snap, leave your central heating on a low setting to prevent the pipes freezing.
It’s important to check the pipes in your loft too, as most people’s are unheated, and a quick check of the lagging around pipes and cisterns can save you from some very expensive repairs. Leaving the loft open slightly throughout winter will also allow warm air to reach the space and could help to prevent frozen pipes.
Speaking of lofts, yours should have at least 270mm of insulation to ensure your home is energy efficient. There are grants on offer to help you pay for loft insurance – just visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk for details.
Turn The Heating Up
While you’re checking the pipes and insulation throughout your home, it’s worth finding out when your boiler was last serviced, and booking a pre-winter checkup if it hasn’t been done for a while. The price of an emergency callout for a plumber can be astronomical, so keeping your boiler in good working order throughout the winter can save you an expensive headache, as well as make sure you and your family stay warm all winter long.
Another way to make the most of your heating is to bleed the radiators throughout your house. It’s a quick and simple job – all you’ll need is the radiator key and a towel – but it can go a long way towards keeping every room of your home as warm as possible. There are plenty of other small measures that can save you heat and money too, like fitting draught excluders to your doors, windows, and letterboxes to keep the warmth in your house, and looking into options for insulating chimneys, extractor fans and other ways that cold air might get in.
Finally, if the thought of the bill for heating your home throughout the winter is filling you with dread, it might be worth seeing whether you’d be better off switching energy suppliers. Everyone’s bills are higher throughout the winter months, but many of us pay far more than we need to simply because we don’t shop around for our gas and electricity. Find out as soon as possible if you can get cheaper energy bills by taking a look at MoneySuperMarket’s free comparison service for energy suppliers.