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Protecting Your Home this Winter

Every year numerous accidents and millions of pounds worth of damage are caused by the colder weather. By planning ahead and taking some basic precautions, the effects of the damage can be minimised or averted altogether.

How to be prepared

Have a ‘charged’ torch to hand in case of a power cut or emergency during the night.

Keep a note of reputable contractors or insurance claims line numbers to call in a convenient spot.

Ingress of water, storm damage, flood, and damp

Particular attention should be paid to the maintenance of flat roofs and repairing of loose tiles.

Keep guttering and downpipe hoppers clear of leaves to avoid a back up under the tiles causing ingress of water.

Trees should be inspected annually and remedial action taken where necessary. All work should be carried out in compliance with BS3998.

Attention should be paid to the maintenance of boundary walls and fencing.

In the event of high winds, secure or store items such as garden furniture and dustbins.

Be aware of severe weather warnings http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings

Observe the amount of snow fall on roofs such as conservatories and if safe to do so, clear before the amount can reach unsafe levels.

Clear pathways of snow before it becomes compounded, use grit salt or sand to stop it freezing over.

If you are in a flood area, sign up for emergency flood alerts https://fwd.environment-agency.gov.uk

Consider investing in flood defences such as sandbags or flood barrier.

Keep damp course line clear of soil and plants.

Remove climbing plants that cause damage to the brickwork and pointing; such as ivy.

Avoid condensation by allowing air to circulate, invest in installing air blocks or using small portable dehumidifiers.

Burst Pipes

Know where the main (in the street) and subsidiary (within your home) water stopcocks are and check that they are in working order.

Have your boiler and central heating annually serviced?

Lag your pipes and water tanks to BS6700, include any outdoor drainage and condensation pipes to protect the boiler.

Repair dripping taps & faulty ball valves to avoid frozen pipes.

For unoccupied properties or during extreme cold conditions, leave your thermostat on low.

If you have one, leave the loft hatch open to allow heat to rise and avoid frozen pipes in the loft space.

Fire or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Install a smoke alarm and invest in a small fire extinguisher and fire blanket.

If you have an open fire, have your chimney cleaned annually and use a fire guard.

Do not dry clothes indoors near bar fires or naked flames.

Use surge protectors on electronic equipment.

Bonfires and fireworks should be a safe distance away from buildings and fences.

Install a carbon monoxide alarm.

Security

Ensure you always lock your windows and doors when you are away from the property or asleep at night.

Don’t leave keys or handbags near the front door; burglars poke long poles with hooks through letter boxes.

Purchase a timer to turn your lights on and off to give the impression someone is at home.

Don’t advertise that you are away on social media.

With Christmas around the corner don’t leave presents under the tree on view from windows.

Consider investing in an alarm.

Keep side/rear gates locked.

Don’t leave items lying around outside that can be used to break in such as ladders.

Car

Ensure your vehicle has an annual service and MOT.

Check your tyres for wear and ensure your lights are working.

Check your fuel, oil and water levels adding antifreeze/coolant.

Don’t be caught out by the weather; the following items should be carried in your boot; dry food & bottled water, thermal blanket, snow shovel, hi viz jacket, torch, first aid kit, warning triangle.

Although added weight in the boot uses more fuel, it aids grip and helps avoid skidding whilst driving in ice and snow.

Adhere to the advice given by the emergency services and do not travel unless absolutely necessary.

Whether by car, public transport or on foot, if travelling in inclement weather, wrap up, take extra care, carry a fully charged mobile and always tell someone where you are going.

Water leak

Turn off the subsidiary stopcock and turn on all taps in the house including flushing the toilet to drain the system as quickly as possible and call a plumber.

Never use a naked flame to thaw frozen pipes

Gas leak

Open all windows and doors

Turn off all cooking appliances. Extinguish all cigarettes/cigars/pipes. Call your gas company’s emergency number

Never light a naked flame or turn on any electrical switches

Winter Driving Tips. Interior view from the inside of a car looking out onto a winter scene of a motorway

Winter Driving Tips

Driving in winter is very different to other times of the year, bad weather conditions and longer periods of darkness can make even familiar roads treacherous and unpredictable.

When planning on driving in adverse conditions listen to the weather warnings and ask yourself if your trip is really necessary.

If travel is unavoidable, ensure everything on your car is in good working order, especially your tyres, lights and windscreen wipers. Keep a full tank of fuel and emergency kit in the car in case of accidents, breakdowns or jams.

Before setting off make sure all internal glass surfaces on your car are clear of mist and externally clear of ice and snow. It is illegal and dangerous to drive if visibility is impeded.

Always put safety before punctuality and leave plenty of time for your journey. Get your speed right to maintain the correct stopping distances between vehicles.

Remember your journey can contain many micro climates so always beware of the weather and driving conditions.

Here are a few tips to driving safe in our changeable weather;

Heavy rain:

Use the windscreen wipers to aid visibility.

Reduce speed to avoid aquaplaning. Should you find the car sliding, ease off the accelerator and brake until your speed drops sufficiently for the car tyres to make contact with the road again.

Remember you need twice the braking distance to slow down and stop.

Do not attempt to drive through deep or fast flowing flood water.

Remember to test your brakes after driving through water.

Snow & Ice:

If you start to skid when driving in snow or icy conditions, don’t panic, reduce your speed, apply the brakes slowly and smoothly, release and de-clutch, keeping the wheels pointing towards where you want to go and allowing your speed to fall.

Remember you need up to ten times the braking distance to slow down and stop.

When driving downhill, reduce speed, keep in a low gear and avoid using the brakes.

When driving uphill, choose a suitable gear in advance, keep at a constant speed and avoid stopping.

If stuck in a rut, move the vehicle slowly backwards and forwards using the highest gear you can. Do not rev your engine as this will make matters worse.

If you are truly stuck, do not leave the vehicle, switch off the engine and call your breakdown service for help.

The biggest danger is “black ice”, not really black but transparent and invisible. It forms most commonly when the temperature is at their coldest. It forms readily on Bridges and on parts of the road where the sun doesn’t shine such as under overpasses as they are normally the first to freeze and the last to thaw.

Fog:

In gloomy conditions reduce your speed and always use dipped headlights, never use full beams in fog as it reflects light back.

Put your fog lights on if visibility drops below 100 meters.

If visibility is very poor, it is advisable to approach junctions and crossroads slowly and wind down your window to enable you to listen out for approaching traffic, however; if you really cannot see, you should consider pulling over and stopping until it is safe to continue your journey.

Strong winds:

Reduce your speed.

Avoid driving a high sided vehicle.

Keep tight control of the steering wheel.

Take extra care on bridges and exposed roads.

Low sunshine:

Reduce your speed

Ensure your windscreen is clean and streak free inside and out

Have a pair of sunglasses to hand

For further information:

http://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/winter-driving

http://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/drivers/better-driving/winter-tips/

Keep Yourself Warm This Winter – And Save Money

The clocks go back this Sunday (25th October); the good news – we’ll get an extra hour in bed that morning, the bad news – it’ll be dark at 4pm! With the darker days comes the colder weather and the annual ritual of turning on the heating.

For many, this time of year can be daunting, with high energy prices it is costly business heating our homes. A cold home can lead to many problems such as frozen pipes, it can also have health implications for its occupants. Large fluctuations in temperature can cause damp and mould to grow leading to further issues and additional costs.

We’ve put together some useful (low-cost) tips for keeping you and your home warm this winter, whilst saving yourself money:

  • Don’t leave your heating on all day. Some people believe it is possible to save money by leaving heating on all day at very low temperatures. This is not true and will not save you money, it is also a huge waste of energy.
  • Set your boiler’s timer. If you are out of the house for most of the day, set your heating to come on for a couple of hours in the morning (ideally an hour before you wake up) and four or five hours in the evening. More modern timers have the ability to set different schedules depending on the day, so you can have the heating on for longer over the weekend.
  • Set your radiator valves. You should have the ability to control each radiator in your home independently, spend a bit of time getting the temperature levels comfortable.
  • Closed doors keep heat in. If you have a living room off the hallway and your front door is made of wood, you may find you get a draft. Close your living room door during the evenings and you will notice the difference very quickly.
  • If you have gaps under external doors, consider investing in a draught excluder.
  • Put up curtains over your front door. Thick curtains really do work, especially if you have a large hallway and a wooden draughty door.
  • Close all curtains during darkness hours, to help maintain warmth in your home.
  • If you don’t have central heating, try oil heaters, they are more cost effective than electric heaters, quieter and do not create dust (like fan heaters). Once the oil is heated up the electricity turns off and the temperature is maintained for a long time.
  • A modern solution would be to use a smart thermostat such as the ones from Nest or Hive. These devices connect with your heating systems and learn your daily routines and adjust temperatures accordingly. You can also control them remotely (via a Smartphone) to set your heating to be ready for you when you arrive home.
  • Loft installation is possible the greatest heat saver. Some energy companies may give discounts or even fit for free, so make sure you call them before starting any work.

Make Sure You Are Covered

Winter in Britain brings with it many headaches. If you do find yourself falling victim to the cold season, make sure you have the correct insurance cover in place to help you get back on your feet. Brownhill Insurance Group can help you cover against:

  • Frozen and burst pipes
  • Escape of water
  • Storm damage

To discuss your needs, please call us on 020 8658 4334.

Winter MOT

Looking after your home is important all year round but during the winter months, a small problem can soon turn into a major issue. Here are a few things to consider checking around the house before the winter arrives:

  • Loose tiles – Check your roof for any loose tiles that may fall off during a storm. Falling tiles could cause damage to cars parked near your property, garden furniture or worse.
  • Gutters – Getting your gutters cleaned of any build up such as autumn leaves can prevent leaks and overflowing.
  • Drains – Clearing leaves from around drains can prevent flooding around your property.

Brownhill Insurance Group are a leading independent insurance Broker based in Kent.