Protect your home in freezing weather – our biggest fears and how to avoid them

Power cuts, broken boilers and frozen pipes – how to save yourself from household disasters in freezing weather.

With parts of the UK facing snow and freezing conditions, a new survey has revealed that homeowners over 65 years of age worry the most about how to cope in a cold weather crisis.

The research, by Ageas UK, which has been shared with Saga, reveals our biggest concerns are being affected by power cuts, broken boilers and frozen pipes. Yet despite this, the over-65s are half as likely to have an emergency plan in place than younger people.

We’ve got the lowdown on what keeps us awake when the temperatures plummet and how we can protect our homes in freezing weather and snow.

A red brick cottage covered in snow with a snowy garden.Credit: Shutterstock / Paul Maguire

Anna Thunstrom, Saga’s Home Product Manager, said: “We know people can often dread cold weather but just by following a few simple tips they can make their homes more resilient to the cold to keep both the home, and those living there, cosy.

“This includes having a plan to cope with emergencies such as power cuts, and ensuring sufficient supplies of food and water if it is not possible to leave the home for a period of time.”

Protect your home in freezing temperatures

How to freeze-proof your home

Inside your home

  • Get your pipes checked for leaks or drips. Look for split, dripping, rusting or oxidised pipes and joints. Run the taps to make sure that the water is free flowing.
  • Repair dripping taps. Make sure to get leaky taps, showers, and toilets fixed by a plumber, as even small trickles of water can lead to frozen pipes.
  • Make sure pipes and tanks are insulated. Pipes and tanks in loft spaces and other draughty areas should be lagged to prevent them from freezing. You can also have self-regulating pipe heat tape or heat cables fitted to prevent water freezing in metal and plastic pipes.
  • Test your stop tap. If you know where your internal stop tap is (also known as an isolation valve or stopcock), test it hasn’t seized up by turning it on and off. It is the quickest way to stop a water leak. If you don’t know where it is ask a friend or family member to help you.
  • Consider a leak detector. These can monitor your usual water use and can turn off the water if they detect a leak. Alternatively, use your water meter to check for leaks.
  • Insulate windows and doors. Applying weather strips or insulation foam to your windows and using draught excluders around doors to help keep your home warm and reduce energy bills. It’ll stop cold from getting in and doesn’t cost too much.

Be prepared

In case of power cuts, keep candles, matches, torches, batteries, first-aid kit and other emergency supplies where you can find them. Don’t let candles burn unattended.

What to do outside

  • Make sure taps and pipes are insulated. External taps and pipes should be lagged to prevent them freezing.
  • Clear paving or tarmac of snow and ice using sand, grit, or salt – ordinary table or dishwasher salt is fine. But don’t take the rock salt from salting bins to use on private paths and pavements, this is needed to keep roads clear.
  • Keep shoes with a good grip by the door, or invest in snow grips that slip onto soles.
  • In frosty weather try to avoid walking on lawns to avoid damaging the grass underneath.

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If snow is forecast

  • Make sure you have enough wood and coal for your fire, and enough fuel for your heating system
  • Stock up on non-perishable food, for yourself and pets, plus any vital medicines

Our fears in freezing weather

What the survey found

According to the survey, it turns out that homeowners aged 65 and over are not only well-informed about the havoc frozen pipes can wreak, but they are also taking proactive measures to protect their properties, such as insulating their pipes to safeguard their homes.

This same group are also of the opinion that if their home was damaged by frozen pipes bursting and flooding their home, it would take about two months longer for things to return to normal as compared to younger people.

But despite that knowledge, the over-65s are half as likely as the rest of the population to have an emergency plan in place in case of a crisis caused by severe weather.

Ageas UK claims director Stephen Linklater said: “We understand just how disruptive and distressing it can be when our homes or vehicles are damaged by extreme weather and so we are urging people to take heed of the weather warning and do everything they can to protect themselves.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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