Avoid leaks this winter

Last winter, 93 per cent of major claims in the home occurred when no-one was in the house, according to a claims audit by Direct Line.

The audit found that the source of nearly all these claims were leaks from water mains and pipes in the loft.

To support the claims audit, further research commissioned by Direct Line shows that only 65 per cent of women know where their stopcock is compared to 80 per cent of men. This could be disastrous for women who are home alone and unable to stop water gushing through their house.

Martin Egan, national claims manager for Direct Line home insurance, said: “It is not a surprise that there is a correlation between unoccupancy and the extent of damage for those affected by the freezing weather last winter. If you are going away, leave the heating on low or turn off and drain the system. Ask a friend or a neighbour to check on your house regularly while you are away.

“During winter months, leave the heating on at approximately 15 degree on the thermostat. Whether you are at home or away, open loft hatches to allow them to heat up. Often they are so well insulated to keep cold out of the house that they do not allow heat in and freezing occurs. Find out now where your stopcock is and how to turn off the water supply. You really don’t want to be looking for it when water is coming through the ceiling.”

It is not only water leaks that householders need to prepare for. Boiler breakdowns can be disastrous and it’s not just the older ones at risk. The research showed that 37 per cent of those surveyed who rent or own their home had a boiler less than five years old.

These householders should also be aware of the risk of their condensing boiler heating systems failing, due to external drain away pipes freezing. The number of households that have this type of boiler has increased significantly in the last five years as in April 2007, in England and Wales, it became a legal requirement that all new gas boilers must be condensing.