Is your home ready for winter?

Make sure your home stays warm and cosy whatever the weather.

Home maintenance

10 November 2021

When it’s freezing outside, the last thing you want to do is deal with a burst pipe or a faulty boiler.

So here are a few tips to help make sure you stay warm and dry this winter.

Bleed your radiators

Bleeding your radiators will release trapped air and make them more efficient.

Just be aware that when you do release the radiator valves, water can spray out, so wedge a towel between the radiator and the wall, and lay another on the floor underneath. Also, boiler pressure can drop after bleeding so once again you might want to get a professional to do it for you.

Check your oil tank if you have one

If you live in the country, chances are your heating is fuelled by an oil tank in the garden. Before the weather turns check your tank to make sure oil isn’t seeping into the ground. Not only is it harmful to the environment, it can be expensive. With AXA insurance, you’ll be covered for any damage to your property caused by escape of oil.

Protect your pipes

When pipes or taps freeze they can burst, so the experts recommend that you:

  • fix any dripping taps, especially those outside
  • insulate water tanks and pipework
  • leave heating on minimum when you go out

If you need a plumber check with Watersafe, a free online service that will put you in touch with someone local to you.

Get your heating serviced

This is the time of year when most people turn their heating back on. The sudden pressure to heat radiators can quickly lead to problems, especially in older heating systems. So call in a professional to service your heating. Gas Safe engineers are particularly hard to find as it gets colder, so you might want to book one now and avoid emergency call-out fees later on.

Female plumber fixing central heating

Call in a chimney sweep

Not only will a sweep remove soot, bird nests and blockages, they could also prevent a potentially hazardous chimney fire. You can find one local to you at the National Association of Chimney Sweeps.

Be prepared for a power cut

It’s always a good idea to have these at the ready:

  • Torch & spare batteries (a wind up version is ideal)
  • Candles / matches
  • Blankets

Here’s some more advice from the Met Office should you need it, from how to keep fridges and freezers colder for longer, to looking out for elderly neighbours.

Be prepared if your energy supplier goes bust

If your supplier does go bust, don’t worry you’ll still get a regular supply. Just remember to take a meter reading – and photograph it against that day’s paper - so you have evidence for later on. Then, according to Citizen’s Advice, wait for your new supplier to contact you. They’ll explain what will happen with your account. If you don’t hear from your new supplier within 2 weeks, contact them.

Some experts also recommend you go online and print out your usage/ account details, so you have a complete record. Particularly if the utility company owes you money.

Check for flying garden furniture

When the wind is up, everyday items like parasols can quickly turn into projectile missiles. So if it isn’t fixed to the ground, put it away or tie it down.

Check your warning devices

If you have gas heating, your Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector should be replaced every 5 years. And if your smoke alarm is battery powered don’t forget to pick up some spares.

If you live in Scotland, please also note that from February 2022 all alarm systems must be wired in, so you might want to check out the new guidelines here.

Check your flood risk

The Met Office advise you to check if your home is at risk of flooding, and sign up for free flood warnings.

They also offer a dedicated Floodline number:

Clear the gutters and check the roof

When gutters become blocked. Rain can start to seep through the roof and into the walls of your home. So a good clear out is vital. Just pick a day when it’s not too windy. And if getting up a ladder makes you feel uncomfortable, hire a professional to do it. Hopefully they can check the roof for loose tiles, slates and stray branches at the same time.

Take a look at your drains

First the good news. Looking after drains outside the bounds of your property is up to your water company.

But any drains inside the boundaries of your property - your ‘private drains’ - are your responsibility.

If you’re letting, or live in a flat it gets more complicated, so it might be worth checking with your leasehold or property management, so you’re clear about who’s supposed to look after what.

The best way to care for drains is to avoid blocking them in the first place. But if it’s too late for prevention, try environmentally friendly products like enzyme cleaning sticks. Failing that if your u-bend is still clogged there are plenty of commercial un-blockers on sale.

Make sure you’re insured

Finally, it’s always a good idea to make sure your insurance cover is up to date and includes everything you need it to.

AXA offers buildings and contents insurance together or separately. We have a 5 Star Defaqto ratings for our premium products, and it’s easy to start your claim here online. Though if you prefer the phone our claims lines are open 24/7. You might also be reassured to know that in 2020 we paid over 90.5% of customers’ home insurance claims1.

In the meantime, with a little home-prep, we hope you’ll have a lovely warm, dry uneventful winter.

1 Data relates to home insurance claims for policies underwritten by AXA Insurance UK plc from January to December 2020.