How to protect your home from freezing temperatures

The ‘beast from the East’ could cause burst water pipes and slippery paths

Homeowners should consider taking steps to protect themselves and their property from the big chill. Photograph: iStock

Homeowners should consider taking steps to protect themselves and their property from the big chill. Photograph: iStock

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Ahead of the arrival of the ‘Beast from the East,’ homeowners should consider taking steps to protect themselves and their property from the big chill.

The biggest problems - apart from the unexpectedly hight cost of heating your home - will most likely be burst water pipes and slippery slopes (or paths) leading to and from the home.

When water freezes it expands and as the pipes used for plumbing in most Irish homes tend to be inflexible, some will inevitably burst in the days ahead with poorly insulated houses at the greatest risk and pipes exposed to cold air the most vulnerable.

“When we experience a big freeze in Ireland such as the one forecasted, we see a huge demand for emergency plumbers on our service to repair damage that is entirely preventable,” said the chief executive of OnlineTradesmen.ie Ted Laverty.

“The resulting damage can lead to internal repairs and, in some cases, structural damage.”

Often the first - and only - sign there is a problem is when the water supply suddenly stops by which time it might be too late to resolve problems without it costing you and arm and a leg.

To stop pipes freezing insulate all exposed water pipes (both internal and external). It is best to do this with foam based or specialist pipe insulation.

It might be too late for that ahead of the beast’s arrival so - not entirely efficient - alternatives to ensure the water still flows include keeping the attic hatch open to allow heat circulate in danger areas and wrapping the most at-risk pipes with old duvets.

While running taps from now until the end of the cold snap is not recommended you should make sure water flows through all taps regularly throughout the period and ensure heating comes on regularly - particularly in unoccupied homes .

A few simple steps can prevent many problems happening.

If you suspect your pipes have frozen you need to turn off the water supply to your home immediately at the main stop cock (stop valve) in your house, normally located under the kitchen sink.

Where possible you should also turn off the water supply from your water tank - this is normally located in your attic.

Finally, turn off all your water heating systems and then turn on your taps to drain the system - this will enable you to minimise any potential water damage from a burst pipe.

If pipes have burst you will need to turn off the water supply to your house and water tank. If electrics are exposed to water, turn off your electricity supply at the mains and make contact with your insurance company.

To reduced the likelihood of falls outside the home, you might want to consider gritting danger areas.

Dishwasher salt can be a cheap alternative to salty grit to ensure the steps and paths around your home stays ice free.

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