Officially, the term 'Big Chill' is the name given to the possible end of the universe, when the average temperature approaches absolute zero because the expansion initiated at the time of the Big Bang has decelerated, almost to the point of stopping. Meanwhile, the media uses it to describe a ‘cold snap’ where temperatures are consistently around the zero mark, often accompanied by snow fall and ice.
And it looks like we’re heading that way now.
Weather conditions like this often mark a spike in household claims, with the most common being ‘Escape of Water’, as a result of burst water pipes. So, perhaps the time is right for a campaign to raise awareness, encouraging householders to take a few simple measures to winter proof their homes?
According to the ABI, the cost to the industry from ‘Escape of Water’ claims was a colossal £730 million in 2010; a year in which we experienced a particularly harsh winter. This was an eye watering 45 per cent increase in the number of claims on the previous year. But why so bad? Is the weather alone responsible for this trend? Apparently not. The Office of National Statistics data shows that in 1970 only 30% of UK homes were fitted with central heating. Today this figure is closer to 95%. Similarly, just 65% of households had a washing machine in 1970. Today, 95% of all homes have one. Washing machines, like dishwashers and central heating, require plumbing, and where there is plumbing, there are pipes – and water!
And that’s not all. Not only has the risk of your home being flooded increased, but so has the value of its contents. With expensive gadgetry and a general penchant for the finer things in life, burst pipes can make for a costly claim.
Essentially, burst water pipes occur when the water inside a pipe freezes. The ice expands putting pressure on the pipe, which eventually cracks, and when the thaw begins, water will come pouring from the break. A few simple precautions can do much to avoid disaster. Watch the weather forecasts and if it is going to be particularly cold, keep your central heating on a low setting so that the temperature at home does not fall below 12 degrees. Lag exposed pipes (especially in the loft) and attend to dripping taps both inside and out. Finally, make sure you know where your stopcock is because if the worst does happen, the sooner you stop the flow of water the better.