6 steps to help prevent cold weather ruining your winter

Preparing your farm property for severe weather conditions

Jason Byrne, Head of Agri Business, Zurich Insurance plc.

Here's a six-step checklist to help prevent cold and frost getting the upper hand this winter. 

While things are unseasonably mild right across the country with balmy temperatures and breaking records in December, temperatures are sure to drop again soon and everyone should be prepared for the worsening weather.

The winters of 2010 and 2011, two of the most severe winter periods experienced in many years, are etched within recent memory as many farms suffered severe loss or damage to their premises and property. Apart from the financial cost associated with weather related damage, such incidents can also seriously disrupt the day-to-day running of the farm. Despite our unseasonable temperatures of late we can’t rule out another severe cold snap. What can farm and home owners do to prepare?

Taking preventative measures

In the vast majority of cases, weather-related losses are preventable with some simple steps and by adopting appropriate maintenance procedures. The following are practical recommendations which could form part of your farm risk assessment and management strategy:

1. Frost/freeze checklist and general recommendations

  • Are your pipes and tanks properly lagged?
  • Make sure the boiler and heating system are serviced regularly by a competent registered contractor.
  • Understand the dangers of frozen pipes and ensure you can locate the stopcock/stop valve.
  • If residential premises are unoccupied over the winter period, maintain a minimum constant temperature e.g. 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If premises are empty for a longer period, turn off the water supply at the mains and drain down the entire cold water system.
  • Remember to protect your oil supply from freezing. The oil supply pipe can be protected with weather proof insulation and a tarpaulin cover will provide emergency protection to the tank.

2. Frost thermostats

  • Fitting of frost thermostats can provide automatic frost protection to boilers and pipework, as well as the fabric of the building. The thermostat should be deliberately fitted in the coldest areas, for example, loft space, floor voids, outbuildings, to activate the boiler at a pre-set temperature - usually 3 degrees Celsius or below.

3. Infrared lamps

  • Install infrared lamps to keep temperatures above freezing, commonly used in attics to stop water tanks freezing. For milking machines, a solution can be to install a line of infra-red lights above the milk and wash lines. All wiring should be done by a certified registered electrician.

4. Automatic shut off valves

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  • Fit automatic shut off valves to ensure that, in the event of a sudden loss of water pressure due to a burst pipe, the water is turned off.

5. Pipes

  • Thaws follow freezes and extensive flood damage can be caused by leaks from burst pipes. Insulating your pipes correctly will protect against freezing.
  • All exposed pipework should have adequate lagging and insulation.

6. Water tanks

  • Regular checks on your water tanks, including animal water troughs should be carried out to ensure they are structurally sound and livestock have constant access to fresh water.
  • Check the insulation on your water pipes and cold water tank. Those in the attic or other vulnerable places should be lagged or similarly protected.
  • Tank sides, including all associated internal and external feed pipes should be covered but it is important to keep the underside of the water tank exposed to allow warm air to rise and reach the tank.

What to do in the event of a burst pipe

  • Turn off the water at the mains stop tap as soon as you discover the leak.
  • Drain the cold water system by turning on all your cold water taps.
  • Turn off any water heating system, such as central heating and drain hot water taps.
  • Switch off electrics at the mains if you think water may have leaked near electrics or electrical appliances, however if the mains switch is wet or standing in water DO NOT touch it and call a plumber and electrician.

Reliable claims service and risk management advice for customers

In the event of a loss, our Zurich claims service promises to act quickly in assessing the loss and to get you back up and running as quickly as possible.

Here at Zurich, our analysis of weather-related claims shows the majority of losses and/or interruptions could have been minimised or avoided entirely by the implementation of simple measures such as those highlighted above.

While an approved contractor can often recommend the most appropriate means of protecting your premises, Zurich Insurance risk engineers are also on hand to provide advice on the specific steps to help protect you against unnecessary loss.

Zurich Insurance plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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