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7 Tips to Prevent Frozen & Burst Pipes as Britain Braces for Snow

As the first storm of winter creeps in, millions of homes could be at risk from burst pipes, leaking water and property damage - here's how to protect your house.

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The weather is set to take a turn this week as the upcoming storm lashes the country with strong gusts and heavy downpours.

The storm, is sweeping in from the Atlantic with winds set to reach 60mph and some areas set to see as much as 80mm of rain in just two days. It echoes the Beast from the East in March when homes were battered by freezing temperatures and hundreds of people were forced to call out engineers to manage frozen and burst pipes.

According to Halifax Home Insurance, 1,536 claims were received during the snow storm versus 824 in March 2017. The insurer is now reminding homeowners to take the right measures to prepare their home against the cold weather and avoid potential disruption.

"A burst pipe can be extremely stressful - especially if it happens at night or at the weekend, making it harder to track down an emergency plumber who can help get the house back to normal," explained Tim Downes, at Halifax Home Insurance.

"These claims are more likely to happen during the winter due to pipes freezing and then bursting during the colder weather. Prevention is definitely better than the cure, so following our top tips are a good way to get ready for winter."

Here are some top tips to prevent burst and frozen pipes this winter.

What temperature your thermostat needs to be set. Set your thermostat to a minimum temperature around 15°C, even overnight – the heating costs are justified if it avoids a costly pipe freeze.

Many thermostats have a winter option that routinely heats the system to keep pipes at the right temperature.

Insulate your home. Insulate exposed pipes in basements, attics, garages, kitchen cabinets and on the outside of the house. Use UL-listed heat tape or foam rubber insulation where pipes are exposed to cold moving air.

Take precautions when going on holiday. If you are going on holiday it might be worth shutting off and draining your water system (ask your provider for information on how to do this) or asking a neighbour to visit while you’re away to check for any leaks in the house.

What if the worst happens?

How to turn off the main water supply. If you experience a burst, turn off the main water supply at the stopcock (usually in an anti-clockwise direction) - it is worth checking you know where this is located in advance. Stopcocks are usually found in your kitchen, below the sink unit. However, in some houses the stopcock is found in a front or back hall or in a larder unit beside the sink unit.

Turn off the electricity. Once done, turn off your electricity supply, avoid all electrical appliances and open your taps to drain the system.

Clear the area. Remove furniture and carpets, where practical, near the frozen pipe. This will minimise damage if the pipe has burst.

How to defrost a frozen pipe. Thaw out the frozen pipe using gentle heat such as towels soaked in warm water or a hairdryer. Do not use a heat gun or blow torch for this.

James Galloway at water boiler manufacturer Baxi, advises pouring hot water on the outside pipe if it is frozen. "The most common cause of a boiler breaking down in freezing conditions is a frozen condensate pipe," he said.

"These are small pipes outdoors, usually about 4cm in diameter, which connect to your boiler. They're often white and plastic.

"If they freeze then condensate will build up in the pipe and then back up into the boiler - which will stop working.

"Boilers are smart, they know when they should stop working.

"If your boiler breaks down during freezing conditions it is the first thing you should check."

Gather evidence. Take photos of the damage – this will help support your claim.

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