With winter on the way, the first snowfall recorded and restrictions on some essential hardware stores and home contractors’ operations being lifted, the remaining lockdown time provides a valuable opportunity for South Africans to get their homes winter ready.
Once the cold sets in, there’s usually a marked increase in home insurance claims related to geysers, burst pipes and fire damage.
In many cases these incidents could have been avoided by proactive checks and good maintenance. So - although it’s still vital to only visit stores or have contact with contractors when absolutely necessary - we urge you as homeowners, tenants and managing agents to perform thorough checks on your building before winter really settles in.
To help, we’ve put together some winter prep advice:
- Geyser – look out for signs that your geyser may be failing. No hot water, water that’s not as hot as it used to be, dirty water, leaks (typically marked by stains on the ceiling or a release valve pipe that’s constantly dripping) and strange sounds are all tell-tale signs. When possible to do so, have your geyser checked to make sure that parts like the element and thermostat are working, that all wiring is safe and that there are no leaks. Consider investing in a geyser timer and geyser blanket to not only save on electricity, but also to help avoid a burst geyser caused by extreme fluctuations in heating and cooling.
- Pipes – it’s wise to ensure that the temperature in your home is warm and consistent enough to avoid the temperature dropping too low, especially in rooms that have a lot of plumbing fitted, and that exposed pipes with a tendency of freezing are properly insulated. Also make sure that all cracks and leaks are fixed asap.
- Wiring – check for faulty wiring on devices and appliances, as this poses a fire and electrocution risk. Be especially wary of loose plug connections or cracks where copper wiring is exposed. Test these appliances to make sure that they work correctly.
- Breaker test: The circuit breakers in your home are often the first line of defence when there are faults in the electrical system. Use the circuit breaker test button, normally located close to the main breaker, to make sure that it’s in working order.
- Smart heating – make sure that devices that use fuels like gas and paraffin are in good working order, that they are far away from combustible materials and that the fuels are safely stored away from your home.
- Gutters – clear all fallen leaves and other debris from gutters, as they not only cause a water drainage hazard, but also pose a significant fire threat.
- Garden – cut away any overgrown plants or dead branches, as they also increase fire risk and put you at risk of injury if they collapse.
- Cracks - check all windows and structures, especially support structures for roofs and decks, for cracks. When moisture gathers in these cracks and freezes at night, they expand, causing even more damage.
- Load shedding – increased power demands during winter bring an increased chance of load shedding, so this is also the ideal time to ensure that your security measures, basic lighting and heating systems and backup power systems are up to the task.
Even with all these home maintenance points under control, there’s always a chance something may go wrong. Always make sure that you have an emergency plan in place - that you are sufficiently and correctly insured for winter, to avoid disaster and keep the chill at bay.