It’s not impossible for a pipe to burst at any time of the year. A minor perforation to a water pipe can be hard to detect and trickier to locate, leading to a burst pipe. However, these incidents are more common during winter months when freezing temperatures can expand water in the pipes around the home, causing them to burst. And these incidents often happen when a home has been left unoccupied for a couple of days and the heating is turned down.
It’s a heart-wrenching event for the homeowner and unfortunately, these type of claims usually results in large losses for their insurer. There are several factors that have combined to push up the cost to insurers when it comes to settling escape of water claims.
Our homes have more appliances and systems that use water such as dishwashers, central and under-floor heating. We have more possessions in our home, many of which are a reasonably high value such as smart TVs and other electronic devices.
Many of us choose to renovate rather than move home and we’re adding bathrooms, utility rooms and cloakrooms, increasing the number and complexity of pipework around the home. Some of us choose the DIY route, perhaps over-confident in our plumbing skills and the availability of plastic and push-fit pipes that eliminate the need for soldering. Unfortunately, the result of some of our efforts can be a disaster in a cold snap.
Modern build properties, meanwhile, tend to have hidden pipework and water mains are often hidden as well. That means any minor leak is harder to identify and more expensive to fix. An increase in the frequency and severity of cold weather has meant that these claims tend to happen more often than they did in the past. The upward trend in both occurrences and cost is to forcing insurers to consider the impact on household premiums and excesses.
On a positive note, there is some clever tech out there that can help prevent an escape of water incident from occurring – or reduce the potential damage if it does. Some insurers have teamed up with these tech companies to give policyholders access to devices that can detect small hidden leaks and alert the homeowner. While still in their infancy, these devices could well prove revolutionary when it comes to minimising the risk and the cost.
In the meantime, there are a number of basic measures that homeowners can take themselves to try and prevent the heartache of a burst pipe:
- Insulate water tanks and lag pipes – most DIY stores sell the materials
- Fix dripping taps as even the smallest trickle can result in a frozen pipe in the winter
- Locate their internal stopcock or valve so they can quickly turn it off if the worse happens
- If they’re going away during the colder months, leave the heating on low 24/7 or consider turning the water off and draining down the system
A few simple steps can make the difference between becoming the victim of what is a distressing event to go through, as well as having to suffer the added pain of a likely increase in premium when it comes to renewal.