It's a bit stressful going away over Christmas.
You have to think about security - who is going to keep an eye on the house, make sure the lights are on at night or the curtains are drawn, that sort of thing. The weather doesn't help either - you don't want to get home to discover the heating has packed in.
And then there's the threat of burst pipes. AXA Home Insurance suggested last year that burst pipes could be a bigger threat than burglary if you're away over Christmas.
Bursting at the seams
According to AXA, over December and January, you may see more people claim for 'escape of water' than for either fire or theft.
And yet only a third of us plan to take basic precautions to protect against burst pipes, which is all the more worrying when you consider such damage is not cheap to repair - the average claim last time around was a massive £15,000.
So what can you do to protect your pipes and ensure you don't need to make a claim on your home insurance?
I've put together the top four things you absolutely must do to keep your pipes ship shape!
#1 Keep your heating on
It doesn't have to be at full blast, but so long as your heating stays on while you are away (AXA recommends 12 degrees) then it should prevent the water in the pipes from freezing.
#2 Get insulating!
Insulation is your friend in combating frozen pipes. First of all, make sure the pipes themselves are insulated with good quality lagging. However, it's not just pipes that need this treatment - the sides of your water tank and loft will also need to be properly insulated.
#3 Fit new washers
If your taps tend to drip, that could spell bad news for your pipes. Make sure you fit new washers because otherwise, if they freeze, they'll block your pipe!
#4 Open up your loft hatch
It's a good idea to leave your loft hatch open, as it allows warm air to circulate and ensure that your water tank doesn't freeze up.
It's not just the pipes to worry about...
Now your pipes are covered, there are other potential Christmas disasters to protect yourself against!
Christmas light fire
Those twinkly lights might look lovely up on your tree, but they can be very dangerous if you don't handle them properly.
Make sure that you always use precisely the right fuse for the lights, and replace any bulbs when they blow. It's also important to not leave them on when you go out or when you go to sleep, and ensure they are not touching anything that can burn easily.
Finally, any other decorations that you have that may be flammable should be kept away from any lights, heaters or candles. I know it sounds obvious, but loads of people make these mistakes every year, so be on your guard!
Put the radio on, in case we get burglars...
Burglaries are also a big worry at this time of the year - according to Crimestoppers, burglaries go up 11% on the national average in January.
If you are going to be away from the house at all over the holiday period, there's plenty of simple things you can do to protect your home.
- Make sure you have good quality locks on all doors and windows
- Make it look like someone is in - get a friend or family member to pop over and draw your curtains at night and leave a light on. If you have an automatic timer for your lights, make use of it!
- If you don't have anyone that can come over to your home while you're away, take advantage of the Royal Mail's 'keepsafe' service, which can look after your post for up to two months. Having a pile of unopened post just inside your door is a clear sign that there's nobody home.
- Try to leave important documents and valuables with a family member while you're away.
Ensure you're insured!
The final thing you should be sure to do is get an appropriate amount of home insurance should the worst happen.
According to Direct Line, 42% of Brits store all of their Christmas presents in one place, which is asking for trouble really. Some insurers will increase the amount you are covered for by around 10% over the festive season, for no extra charge, so make sure you speak to your insurer to see if such a rise applies to you.
If it doesn't, make sure your existing amount is sufficient, or else you really will need to top it up.
You should also check whether high value items, like pieces of jewellery, need to be listed individually on your home insurance policy.