Winter chill-proof your home

2014-07-14 15:00

Securing your home against the seasonal elements can save you money, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs

With the chill of winter firmly set in, it is definitely time to think about winter-proofing your home – if you haven’t done so already. You need to think about home maintenance, and ways to save on electricity costs and reduce your fire risk.

Fire risk

According to Alexander Forbes Insurance (AFI), there is a definite increase in fire-related damage during winter months. AFI managing director Gari Dombo says very few people have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in their homes, but there are steps they can take to minimise the fire risks.

.?Use a screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks escaping.

.?Make sure that your chimney is cleared regularly. Smoke can damage your property and unvented carbon monoxide is dangerous, particularly in an enclosed space.

.?Check the cord of your electric blanket to make sure it is not frayed or has perished.

.?Get rid of electric heaters with damaged cords.

.?Ensure there is a safe distance between your heaters and 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.

.?Use safety gel fuel rather than liquid paraffin in your Primus stove.

.?Keep burning candles at a safe height 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.

.?Buy at least two fire extinguishers of 1kg or more and install one in the passage and one in the kitchen.

Children should be taught how to use the extinguishers. It is also a good idea to develop a home escape plan that you rehearse with your children.

Home maintenance

Insurers have the right to decline your home insurance claim if they can prove that the damage you are claiming for is due to a failure to maintain your property properly.

Avoid the horror of a declined claim that will leave you out of pocket by using these tips:

.?Roof maintenance

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 damages and carry out any required repairs.

.?Clean gutters and drainpipes

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 drain. Large pools of water gathering at ground level can cause rising damp or even damage the foundations of your home.

.?Damp

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-smelling interiors, peeling paint, and swollen wooden doors and window frames.

Electricity savings

Abel Mngadi, the head of new business and sales at First National Bank’s housing finance division, says that electricity is one of the biggest culprits in winter costs.

“There are a number of measures you can put in place to bring your electricity bill down, and proper insulation is at the top of the list,” he says.

.?Start by insulating your ceiling to gain the biggest benefit of reduced heat loss.

.?If you are not using your chimney, make sure that the damper is closed to prevent hot air escaping from the room.

.?Check around windows and doors for leaks and draughts, and ensure that you patch up any holes before the rain sets in.

.?If you have an air conditioning system, ensure it is working efficiently and replace the air filter regularly.

.?To reduce energy usage, invest in energy-efficient heaters such as gas and wall-panel heaters.

.?It takes less energy to warm up a cold room in the morning than it does to maintain a constant temperature throughout the night.

.?If you are building a home, make use of water heaters and have insulation fitted into the foundation. This will help control the temperature in your home.

.?Have your geyser inspected or serviced before winter because it is a big contributor to electricity bills.

“There are a few ways to save on your geyser bill during winter, which include switching it off during the day or wrapping it in a blanket,” says Mngadi.

You could also have a timer installed on your geyser and reduce the setting on the thermostat.

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