In winter, having the boiler serviced should be a priority
Put draught excluders in front of doorways, and buy foam strips to fill gaps
Make sure that chimneys are swept professionally each year
It might not yet feel like winter but now is the time to do vital home maintenance thereby avoiding expensive repair bills for domestic calamities such as frozen pipes or a boiler breakdown. Do not make the mistake of assuming household insurance will cover repairs.
Adam Powell, from insurance specialist Policy Expert, says: ‘Home insurance is not a maintenance policy. If a problem has been caused or exaggerated by poor upkeep of a property, it is unlikely you will be covered.’
GET BOILER SERVICED: Dealing with a boiler breakdown in the middle of winter can be an expensive nightmare, so having the boiler serviced should be a priority. Martyn Bridges, from boiler firm Worcester Bosch, says: ‘You need to have your boiler serviced annually to keep it running effectively. Even a new boiler will need to be checked each year to check CO2 emissions and that flues are clear.’
A service should include a thorough inspection of the boiler and parts, the pressure, seals and flue. A one-off service costs between £80 and £100. Make sure your engineer is Gas Safe registered (gassaferegister.co.uk).
While that cost might look affordable, you could be faced with recurring faults and multiple bills. By contrast, you could get a new boiler installed for £1,600 – saving you money not only on repair bills, but also on your energy bills.’
Boiler insurance – or broader ‘home emergency cover‘ – are options. But as such policies are often riddled with exclusions, a better bet may be to self-insure by putting aside a monthly sum in an easy-access savings account to dip into when a problem arises. A radiator full of trapped air only operates at half power so you need to check all are bled fully.
BOOST INSULATION: Put draught excluders in front of doorways, and buy foam and rubber strips to fill gaps in doors and windows. You can also buy extra flaps or brushes to add to letter boxes to keep out cold air. Lag any pipes and water tanks in exposed areas such as lofts, cellars and garages to prevent pipes freezing and bursting. Also fix dripping taps. Dan Simpson, from insurer Direct Line, says: ‘Leave the heating on at around 15 degrees. Locate your stopcock and learn how to turn off the water supply in the event of an emergency.’
SWITCH ENERGY TARIFF: Following an unprecedented period of energy price rises, make sure you are not paying too much. Switching deals can save £200 a year. Consider investing in a ‘smart’ thermostat, such as Hive or Nest, which can be controlled remotely using a mobile phone.
GET CHIMNEY SWEPT: Make sure that chimneys are swept professionally each year – otherwise an insurer may not cover any damage from a fire. It costs around £50. Look for a sweep registered with the National Association of Chimney Sweeps at nacs.org.uk. Homeowners with a wood-burning stove can find a sweep registered with HETAS at hetas.co.uk.
Outside the property, check guttering and remove clumps of leaves and mud that could lead to gutters collapsing – or water leaking into a home. Sort out loose or missing tiles and repair cracks around chimney pots and at the roof join, and fix render that has come away from the stack.