How to protect your home and car from winter perils

We may have thawed out after the recent big freeze but further cold snaps can’t be ruled out. Home and motor insurance claims soar following bouts of extreme weather so how can you protect yourself in case the country is plunged into ice-cold temperatures again?

Ten tips to protect your home

  • Carry out some maintenance checks – check your gutters for leaves and debris and ensure you have salt for icy paths and sandbags for flooding. Also check the paintwork and putty on windows to ensure there are no gaps or cracking. If you spot any problems deal with them straight away.
  • Have the roof examined – insurers may not pay out if you had loose tiles on your roof that caused damage in the event of a storm. So have a tradesman check the roof and carry out any necessary repairs.
  • Get a service – make sure your boiler is serviced at least once a year and if it is more than 15 years old consider investing in a replacement. Not only will a new boiler be more reliable, it will also be more energy efficient so lower heating bills will be another benefit.
  • Draught-proofing – fit draught proofing around windows and doors to keep out the wind and rain.  
  • Keep everything closed – shut doors and windows and keep curtains closed to retain heat in your home in the event of a power cut.
  • Tidy up the garden – put summer garden furniture away, cut back or tie any plants or trees that could be caught by high winds and sweep up any loose leaves. If you spot any cracks in your pathways repair them as soon as possible as rain and ice will only make them worse.
  • Pipe protection – keep your heating on low - a minimum of 14°C - to reduce the risk of burst pipes. Check your home insurance policy to see if you are covered for frozen pipes particularly if you leave the home unoccupied. If you do suffer frozen pipes deal with the problem slowly – such as with a hot water bottle.
  • Flood defences – move valuables and personal effects upstairs and stock up on sandbags. If you live in a flood risk area consult your insurer about flood defences – if in place they may earn you a discount on your premium.
  • Have an emergency kit – in case severe weather traps you in your home have an emergency kit in place with items such as torches, blankets, waterproof clothing, tinned food and a First Aid kit.
  • Check your home insurance – ensure your home insurance policy is up to date with all the latest contents brought into your home over Christmas included. Check for exclusions relating to weather damage and if you’re not happy with your cover compare home insurance online to find a better deal.

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Ten tips to protect your car

  • Invest in breakdown cover – there’s no worse time to suffer a breakdown than during a cold, dark winter night. Breakdown cover needn’t be expensive and it offers valuable peace of mind. Use a comparison website to compare not only price, but also the level of cover included: pay attention to call-out times, whether or not you receive onward travel and home-starts.
  • Get a service – ensure your car is serviced at least once a year, and preferably every six months to ensure it is in good working order for the winter period.
  • Carry out spot-checks – check the oil, anti-freeze and hazard lights at least once a week or more depending on how much travelling you do. Remember to check the tyres for tread depth and pressure and ensure the spare tyre is in good condition.
  • Stock up on essentials – make sure your car has all the essentials in case of a breakdown or accident including a torch, jump-leads, First Aid kit, warning triangle and high visibility jacket.
  • Watch out for frosting – one repercussion of the bad weather is that many of us start our engines in the morning and then leave the car unattended while we get ready for work. This gives thieves an easy ride to steal the car in a crime known as ‘frosting’ – and by leaving the keys in the ignition you’ll invalidate a car insurance claim. So allow enough time in the morning to heat up your car without abandoning it.
  • Don’t use hot water – when defrosting your car in the morning don’t use boiling water on icy windows as you could crack a windscreen.
  • Allow extra journey time – don’t speed in icy or foggy conditions and remember that other road users are likely to be travelling at a slower pace, so allow extra time to reach your destination.
  • Be extra vigilant – pay extra attention on the road as you can’t always anticipate what actions other drivers may take in hazardous conditions – also be on the lookout for cyclists and pedestrians. Take your time around corners and don’t accelerate or brake harshly.
  • Leave a safe distance – normally you should allow two seconds between you and the car in front as a safe stopping distance but this should be doubled in bad weather.
  • Check your car insurance – ensure you are covered for accidents in all weather conditions. Consider shopping around for a more comprehensive car insurance policy if you’re not happy with your current deal.

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