It turns out that we've found where winter was hiding. Temperatures have dipped as low as -6.1°C in Hampshire, and the Met Office has issued its first England-wide Level 3 Cold Weather Alert. It is officially a bit parky out there.
And it's not just our fingers and toes we should be worried about, the experts say a combination of factors mean our homes are particularly at risk too.
Burst pipe seasonAllianz Your Cover says we are now officially in 'burst pipe season', and a number of issues are putting our homes at risk this year.
Its research found that 51% of Brits are now less likely to leave their heating on overnight or while they are out of the home, because they are worried about the cost of the extra energy.
This, unfortunately, makes them much more likely to suffer a frozen pipe. Andy James from Allianz Your Cover, comments: "In the current economic climate, it's no surprise that energy bills are a major concern for households and it is understandable that people will be tempted to cut back on heating their homes."
The risk"However, water escaping from frozen pipes can cause extensive and expensive damage and it can take a long while for a property to dry out before it can be repaired." The impact of a burst pipe can be dramatic, so it is worth a small investment of time and money to stop pipes from bursting in the first place.
Protect your homeThere are few steps we can take to protect our home.
1. Set the central heating at the minimum temperature even when you are out of the property. It doesn't have to be kept at the same temperature as normal to stop a pipe freezing and bursting, it just needs warm water to be circulating through the system.
2. Leave the loft hatch door open when you are out and about, to allow warmer air to circulate in the loft and protect the pipes up there.
3. Insulate exposed pipes in the attic and wrap tanks with good quality lagging. The survey found that one in four homes have no protective lagging at all, which is just asking for trouble.
EmergenciesIt's also worth knowing what to do if you are unfortunate enough to have a burst pipe. Some 49% of people wouldn't know what to do, and 22% don't even know where the stop cock is in their home, so it's worth knowing the basics.
If you do return home to a burst pipe, Allianz recommends:
- Immediately turn off the stopcock to prevent further flooding
- Turn on all the cold taps in your home and flush the toilet a few times to reduce flooding and pressure on the system
- Block escaping water using towels and use buckets to catch drips
- Call your insurer's 24 hour helpline or a local plumber as quickly as possible