Morton Michel shares advice on how to prepare for the season of sledges, building snowmen – and burst pipes!
Winter is one of the very worst times for insurance claims. Not only are business premises left unattended for the festive season, thus attracting the attentions of burglars; but the weather can cause expensive havoc to your property.
It’s not just a question of repairing burst pipes – the damage caused by water rushing out for hours or days before anyone notices can really rack up the cost of settling claims as well as causing a great deal of stress and anxiety.
If there are other properties in your area that are similarly affected then it can also be incredibly difficult to find a plumber quickly. This can delay the restart of your business, with consequent effects on your profits and relationships with your clients.
With this in mind, here are some tips to help prevent water escaping from your system:
• if your tank is in a loft area, ensure that all exposed water pipes and tanks in the loft are properly and adequately insulated. Ensure that your loft insulation is not underneath the water tank as the warmth from below will help to prevent the cold water from freezing.
• Leave your heating on constant i.e. 24 hours per day during severe freezing temperatures.
• Inspect your cold water tank regularly and, if it is metal, make sure it is not corroding.
• Know where your main stop valve is located and make sure you can turn it on and off with ease. It’s also a good idea to label it and make sure that your staff know where it is located
• Repair dripping taps. It’s usually just a washer that’s needed.
• A constantly dripping overflow pipe is a sure sign that your system requires some maintenance. Have it checked out immediately.
• If, during freezing conditions, the heating fails or makes loud banging noises, this could indicate that a pipe is freezing. Turn off the boiler and call a plumber immediately. You might have Emergency Repair Assistance information in your insurance policy so it’s worth checking with your broker or company ahead of time and keeping a note of the emergency phone number.
• Regularly check the condition of flexible hoses to plumbed-in appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
• Have your entire heating system checked throughout on an annual basis – not just your boiler.
If your premises are going to be unoccupied:
• leave your heating on constant (minimum 15 degrees Centigrade), especially if a cold spell is predicted.
• Leave the loft hatch open to allow warm air to circulate in the loft space.
• Turn off the water supply if your home is being left for a long period.
If you do experience a frozen pipe:
• Turn off the water supply at the main stop valve.
• Contact an approved plumbing and heating engineer for assistance – again, your policy may be able to help
• If you should locate a frozen pipe, NEVER use a naked flame to thaw it out. A hot water bottle or hairdryer (keeping it well away from any water) on low heat will assist in achieving a gradual defrost. Always start from the end nearest to the tap.)
Water leak prevention and detection systems are becoming increasingly popular and thereby more cost effective. Systems can start with a simple shut off valve that can be operated by the flick of a switch, to more sophisticated systems that can be set to monitor your regular flow of water in terms of volume, which will then shut off the main water supply if this is exceeded.
Water leaks into unoccupied premises over the new year period can cause great physical, financial and emotional damage and, in most cases, they are eminently avoidable by adopting a few sensible precautions.
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