‘Winter is coming’ is the motto of House Stark, and has become a favourite phrase among fans of TV series Game of Thrones. However, here in SA, far from Westeros, winter is already in full swing. Here’s what you need to do to fight the forces of deep free
f you fail to maintain your home, your insurer can decline a claim for damages. For example, you should regularly have your roof gutters cleaned to remove leaves and other debris, particularly during the rainy season. If you fail to do so and then put in an insurance claim when the gutter falls apart, your insurer could decline the claim based on the fact that you should have prevented predictable damage.
Rory Judd, MiWay’s head of online marketing, provides the following tips to beat winter’s pitfalls:
Get the fireplace ready
If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, check for birds’ nests, any cracks or other damage. If you have a thatched roof, have the flashing checked. Using a fireplace isn’t maintenance-free: the ashes from last year should be long gone, and you need to have the chimney professionally cleaned every second year. Buy wood early because prices tend to go up when temperatures go down and demand increases.
Cut out the draught
Keeping the house warm is much more difficult if the heat is leaking out. Make sure all your windows close and are sealed properly to keep the warmth in. Check for any cracks around frames and fill them in with wall filler. Consider using under-door draught stoppers, also known as “door snakes”, to prevent the wind from sneaking in through the crack.
Maintain heaters and heating systems
Be sure your heating systems are ready to weather the winter. Have a professional check your airconditioning system and ensure it’s in good working order before you turn it on. Schedule checks for your heater and chimney. Consider a gas heater to help cope with load shedding and save on electricity costs.
Pad your pipes
If you live in a colder part of the country where below-zero temperatures are common, you face the additional risk of a small, frozen pipe that could potentially cause big household damage if it bursts. Stop this from happening by padding your pipes to prevent them from bursting. Grab some tubular pipe insulation sleeves from your local hardware store and cover exposed pipes in unheated areas. The pipe sleeves are easy to apply and can be cut to fit. Cover all exposed parts, including bends and joints. Finally, seal the seams with duct tape. With that simple task, you’re not only preventing considerable water damage, but conserving energy.
Insulate your geyser
Another good idea is to invest in a geyser blanket. By insulating the geyser against normal heat loss through the steel casing, the geyser keeps the hot water hot for longer – meaning it does not need to be switched on as often. Unless insulated, geyser water temperature can drop by 1°C an hour, so constant energy is needed to maintain temperature. A geyser blanket can cut energy use by half, saving electricity and hundreds of rands every month. You should also insulate the water pipes leading from the geyser for the first 3m.
Clean out the garage
Like your traditional spring clean, consider scheduling a traditional “autumn clean” of your garage. Organise the remains of your summer projects and clean and store gardening tools. Push what you won’t be needing – the lawnmower, hedge trimmer, rakes and summer toys – to the back and bring any winter necessities to the front.
Gari Dombo, MD of Alexander Forbes Insurance, points out that, unless you live in the Western Cape, you can expect a dry winter. This is a great time to check your roof for leaks or other damage and carry out any repairs.
You should regularly clear your gutters of leaves, twigs and other debris. Heavy rains and an overflowing gutter can lead to a leaky roof. Clogged gutters also cause rainwater to pool. Check the downpipes too and make sure the rain has somewhere to go. Large pools of water gathering on the ground can cause rising damp or even damage the foundation of your home.
Take advantage of the dry weather to damp-proof your home. Dampness can be caused by rain, flooding or poor drainage. If left unchecked, it can cause several problems, including musty interiors, peeling paint and swollen wooden doors and window frames.
According to Alexander Forbes Insurance, there is a definite increase in fire-related damage during winter months. Dombo says that even if you don’t have fire extinguishers or smoke detectors in your home, there are several steps you can take to minimise fire risks.
Use a screen in front of your fireplace to stop sparks from escaping.
Check the cord of your electric blanket to make sure it is not frayed. Get rid of electric heaters with damaged cords. Ensure there is a safe distance between your heaters, curtains and other furniture. Never put an electric heater in the bathroom. Have a designated safe place that is well out of the reach of children to store matches, firelighters and other flammable equipment.
Keep lit candles out of the reach of children and away from soft furnishings. Make sure all candles are extinguished before you go to sleep.
Check your indoor gas heater and replace worn or perished seals.
Make sure fixed gas appliances are regularly serviced and maintained in accordance with gas regulations.
It is also a good idea to develop a home escape plan that you should rehearse with your children.