Well, you are no doubt busy digging out your winter woollies and winter boots, but now is the time to also start preparing your home for winter too! As the colder weather arrives it is well worth spending some time preparing your home to try and prevent any problems arising from the ice and frost.
The three month cold snap in 2018 led to a record number of burst water pipes and a staggering bill amounting to £194 million, according to the Association of British Insurers. There are of course, precautions you can take to minimise the chance of this happening.
Protect Your Water Pipes
All water pipes are at risk when the temperature drops, but the most vulnerable ones are those in unheated inside areas such as basements, attics and garages. If the pipe bursts this can lead to flooding – especially if it goes undetected. If the pipes are not protected, it is wise to invest in some lagging or heating tape – there are various kinds available, and these help keep the pipes warm, saving you energy costs and reducing the chance of a freeze up.
A burst hot water pipe can be a real problem and prevention is definitely better than cure. All hot water pipes need to be well lagged to save them freezing and bursting. Lagging can be bought very cheaply from DIY stores and is relatively straight forward to fit. Other ways to prevent a pipe bursting is to keep cupboards open in the kitchen and bathroom so that the warmth of the house can reach the pipes and to keep the heating constantly on a minimum so that warm water is running through many of the pipes. Leaving the loft hatch open a little on a very cold night is effective but is not exactly energy efficient!
Whilst you are in the DIY store buy a really good insulating jacket for your hot water tank too as they really do help to keep the water hot and are relatively inexpensive to buy – about £25. There are a variety of thicknesses on the market and 25- 80 mm is the recommended thickness range to choose. There is a good variety available so just measure your tank to buy one that will fit snugly and look for one that bears the British Standards logo. Fitting a good quality jacket to your hot water tank will save you the cost of the jacket very quickly.
Check Your Roof Insulation
As the temperature drops, it is well worth checking out the quality of your roof insulation as you can lose as much as 25% of your home’s heat if the roof is not properly insulated. There are so many benefits from having good insulation; not only will your home be definitely warmer, your heating bills will be lower too so this is definitely a win-win situation! The Energy Saving Trust in its recent report, suggests that those living in a detached house could reduce their heating bill by £225 per year and a saving of £135 can be made by those living in a semi-detached house. Even those living in a mid-terrace property can save more than £100 every year.
Even if you do have roof insulation in your loft, it is well worth checking that it is adequate as experts recommend that the insulating material should be at least 27cm in thickness. It is one of those jobs that you can tackle yourself, but if you prefer, call in the experts who can quickly complete the work for you and you will start saving money straight away.
How Is Your Central Heating?
Everyone loves the feeling of walking into a lovely warm home, but many feel unable to afford the heating bills. Why not invest in a smart meter because it will be able to tell you exactly how much energy you are using and how much it is costing you. The smart meter can also show you how energy efficient your various appliances are and this can be really useful.
A Smart thermostat/timer helps you choose which constant temperature you would like for each room and also enables you to set the time it switches on so that your home feels lovely and warm when you return to it. You can programme each radiator individually and this enables you to tailor your heating to your family’s requirements which maximises its efficiency and saves money too.
If you have not had your heating system checked during the last year, it is well worth getting an engineer in to make sure that all is working well – this is definitely preferable to do before the temperatures plummets and your heating system fails too.
On the practical side, it can be a bonus to buy some reflectors to slip behind the radiators that are situated on outside walls as these will help reflect the heat back into the room. If you enjoy ‘Blue Peter’ style projects, you can make your own from large pieces of hardboard – cut to the size of the radiator and then covered in aluminium foil. Another practical point is to close off the rooms that you are not using. Keep the heating in these rooms to a minimum and the door firmly closed as this will save money.
If you don’t have central heating but have an open fire, the autumn is definitely the time to book an appointment with your chimney sweep to inspect your chimney to make sure it is in tip top working condition and of course to order your supply of logs. Remember to check that you have a CO detector (Carbon Monoxide) near any open fire, boiler, gas fire or gas cooker.
How Are Your Doors & Windows?
It sounds logical, but in reality, can you say that you have in all honesty checked all your doors and windows recently? Traditionally, people used to make the check using a lit candle and if the flame flickered near a window or door frame, it meant that air was getting in.
A similar test can be made with a fiver and certainly demonstrates that it could be costing you money! If you do find any draughty doors or windows, invest in some cheap and cheerful foam weather strip and fit it inside the door or window frame and it should be problem solved!
Another traditional way to keep the warmth in a room is to hang heavy curtains across all windows and doors. If your home doesn’t have double glazing, there are various special films that can be fitted to windows to act in the same way.
Keep Safe in the Winter Months
With all your windows closed for most of the time, it is important to check that your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order as carbon monoxide poisoning is a far greater risk during the colder weather. Change all the batteries and check each appliance out as in the event of a problem, you will be relying on them.
Outside as Well as In!
It is time to have a good tidy up in the garden ready for winter and this includes pruning the hedges and bushes that are rubbing against the walls of your house. Check that when it rains heavily that the rain water can run off drives and lawns easily. It is a good idea to check that there are no pools of water collecting close to the house foundations. This can happen when soil has been washed away and the problem can be easily rectified by adding some more soil to make the ground level once again.
It is a good time of year to check all the guttering as this can easily get clogged by leaves. Check that the down pipes are working well too as they should be taking the water well away from the exterior walls so check that no sections are cracked and in need of replacing. If the down pipe does not take the water away from the house, it might be worth adding another piece to extend the pipe out onto the lawn or into a flowerbed.
Protect the Woodwork
Wood can rot quite quickly when it is getting regularly wet so the autumn is a good time to check that all the external paintwork is in good condition – if you spot any chips or flaking, it is well worth rubbing down that area and applying some fresh paint. Check all your windows have a good seal and that none of them are leaking as this could causes you a big problem when things start to freeze.
If you have an area of decking in your garden, this too needs to be prepared for the winter months to keep it in good condition. The decking should be thoroughly cleaned and then sealed if it needs it to make it water resistant. If you think that your decking is already well sealed, there is a quick test to do that will tell you whether you are right! Pour some water onto the decking and if the water forms droplets instantly then the surface is well sealed, but if not, you had better add it to your ‘to do’ list!
Keep Your Concrete in Tip Top Condition
It is very easy for cracks to appear in concrete pathways and these need to be filled before the arrival of the frost. After you have repaired any cracks, it is best to apply a layer of sealant to the whole path as this will prevent any water permeating into the concrete and then freezing which will cause further cracking.
If you have a tarmac drive, it can also be prepared for the colder temperatures in a similar way. Having filled any cracks, the sealant can be applied fairly easily using a large paint roller.
After you have checked all these seasonal points to ensure that your home is ready for winter, don’t forget to check your house insurance policy. More claims are made to insurance companies during the winter months than at any other time in the year and most are for problems triggered by the cold weather. Don’t be caught out, check your policy offers you adequate protection should you h experience and problems once the temperature starts to drop.
Cavitech-UK offer a range of services to get your home ‘winter ready’ such as cavity wall extraction (bad insulation ironically makes a home colder!), re-insulation, loft insulation, Stormdry application (a masonry cream that protects bricks, improves their water repelling qualities and insulates) as well as pointing repairs and other general tasks that ensure your home will be safe and snug this year.
We have availability now, across the UK so can get any works done well before the worst weather strikes!