The cold start to 2010 in Britain and much of Europe has shown how challenging a change in weather can prove to be in terms of cost to the economy. The freezing conditions that were coupled with heavy outbreaks of snow caused havoc throughout the UK, with school closures, transport chaos and health and safety problems causing misery to millions of people.
Unfortunately, whilst the snow and ice have thawed in most areas of the country, more cold weather is expected to hit Britain before the winter ends. As many people have discovered during the most recent cold snap, it is essential that domestic central heating systems are kept in good working order so that the adverse weather can be endured.
According to Marks & Spencer Home Insurance, there was a 200% rise in home emergency calls relating to water damage during the recent cold spell. Much of this damage was caused by the ice, which inflicted significant damage upon central heating pipework. Unprotected or exposed pipes were naturally the worst hit, as the freezing conditions caused cracks and leaks. Where a leak is found, it is generally advisable to turn off the mains water supply (there will be an internal stop valve located in the house – usually a kitchen or downstairs bathroom – or an external stop valve outside the home), drain the cold taps, then the hot taps and, most importantly, call out a trustworthy plumber. It is also advisable to turn off central heating boilers assuming that they do not run on separate water systems.
Of course, it is far better to prevent such leaks by ensuring that water pipes and tanks are adequately insulated, whilst it is also worth carrying out loft insulation not least to protect against freezing temperatures. Old boilers ought to be replaced under the Government’s Boiler Scrappage Scheme, as in addition to providing more efficient and cost-effective energy the new replacement boilers will usually offer frost protection mechanisms. It is also advisable to take out a home emergency policy that insures against central heating and plumbing problems, such as those provided by Aviva, Churchill, Cover Direct, British Gas HomeCare and Homeserve.