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Going away for the festivities?

Whether you are visiting relatives, staying with friends or just escaping from it all somewhere hot and sunny this year, going away for Christmas is all about relaxing in the company of those you love. While we all think about the usual security precautions when leaving the home alone for a few days, have you thought about the damage a cold snap could do? It’s not something that always jumps to mind, but there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that the Christmas cheer doesn’t turn into a rubbish end of the year.

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) gives the following advice to those going away over the winter months:

1)     A week or so before you go, have a quick check round of any exposed pipework, including outdoor taps, overflow pipes and pipes in your loft space. If your pipes could do with a bit of thermal help, take a quick trip down to your local plumbing or DIY merchant for some lagging. It’s cheap, easy to fit and something you can do yourself. It may seem like ‘one more extra job’ at an already busy time, but water damage from a burst pipe can cause £1000’s worth of damage to your property and ruin your possessions.

2)     Just like your pipes, if your plumbing system incorporates a cold water tank (normally found in the loft space) this should be adequately insulated too. Again, you can insulate this yourself, though if you would more rather leave it to the professionals, you can find one here.

3)     On the day you leave, turn off your water supply at the main stop valve (sometimes called a stop cock) which prevents mains water entering the home. If a very cold snap is forecast you may wish to drain down water in the system to prevent the pipes freezing. This can easily be done by opening the cold taps / flushing the toilet until the system runs dry. Make sure you remember to close the cold taps after.

4)     If you have pipework / cold water storage tank in the loft space, open the loft hatch a little so that warmer air within the house can rise.

5)     Central heating systems can normally be set to a ‘frost’ setting, which will keep the heating system ticking over at a temperature low enough to not hit you hard on the heating bills, but high enough to stop your home from going below freezing.

The CIPHE’s Technical Director, Paul Harmer commented, “A few simple steps can ensure your home - and the valuable possessions within - stay safe from the threat of frozen or burst pipes. While a few days away in mild weather pose little threat, those leaving their property empty for a long haul holiday or a trip of more than a couple of weeks, could be caught out if the weather changes.”

“If you are going away, it’s always wise to double check the small print on your house insurance policy too. They may require you to take steps to prevent water damage, such as turning off the water at your stop valve. If the worst did happen, you don’t want to find out your insurance policy is void.”

No one wants to return from an amazing Christmas break to a house of horrors. So if you are going away this year, make sure you give as much thought to plumbing and heating systems as you do to your home security.