Many parts of the UK ground to a halt earlier this week, with snow causing chaos on the roads and causing added stress for those who are already worried about the cost of heating their homes.
With wintry conditions expected to continue for the next few days, here’s our rundown of what freezing weather can mean for your home, car and travel plans, and whether you might be eligible for any help.
Heating and your home
Despite plummeting temperatures many people are trying to keeping their heating off or on for short periods due to soaring energy bills. Mubin Haq, chief executing of abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, said: “Winter is here and as temperatures go below freezing, families are having to make painful choices as to whether to heat their homes. It is deeply worrying that many have little confidence in their financial futures. They can see increasing mortgages, rents and energy bills coming over the hill and this is causing anxiety and stress. Many were already cutting back on essentials and this has intensified over recent months.”
If you’re worried about turning on the heating because of the cost, talk to your energy supplier and see if there is anything they can do to help. If you get benefits, and if your energy supplier is in the Warm Home Discount Scheme, you might be able to get £150 off your electricity bill or £150 added to your prepayment meter.
The big freeze means that those on benefits should receive a Cold Weather Payment of £25 for each week that temperatures drop, or are forecast to drop, below zero between 1 November and 31 March. This should be paid automatically, so you don’t have to claim it.
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It’s worth checking too whether you might qualify for help from the Household Support Scheme, which was recently extended to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis. Councils each have their own eligibility criteria for who can claim a grant through the fund, so you’ll need to get in touch with yours to see if you can get help from the Scheme.
Heating isn’t the only issue when weather is cold. Freezing conditions can lead to frozen pipes which can cause major damage if they burst. If you have home emergency insurance, which some but not all home insurance policies include as standard, this should cover the cost of any emergency repairs.
With more freezing weather expected, try to insulate your pipes if possible. A spokesman for property maintenance solution provider Help me Fix, said: “Blocked, burst or frozen pipes can be a nightmare and one that often becomes a reality during the winter months. Insulting your pipes or fitting pipe jackets can be done for as little as £50 and up which is a huge saving compared to the damage done from a burst pipe.”
Unless travelling is essential, your best bet is to stay at home when the roads are treacherous. If you have to go out, carry out a few checks first, such as making sure you have enough anti-freeze and that your car’s battery doesn’t need replacing.
Even if you’ve carried out all the necessary checks on your car, unfortunately there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t suffer a breakdown. If you don’t want to end up stranded at the roadside, breakdown cover can provide peace of mind that help should arrive relatively quickly should you need it. Before buying a breakdown policy, make sure you don't already have cover in place. Many packaged bank accounts, which you usually pay a monthly fee for, offer a range of benefits which often include breakdown cover so check to see if you’re already protected.
More than a hundred flights were cancelled on Monday alone due to heavy snow and many more were delayed, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stuck at the airport.
However, according to Defaqto, generally, if a flight is cancelled due to bad weather it is considered outside of the airlines control and so you may not be entitled to compensation. The airline should offer you a suitable alternative though, and if the flight is delayed for more than five hours, you should be entitled to a refund.
Anna-Marie Duthie, travel Insurance expert at Defaqto, said: “Your travel insurance may provide some cover but this may not be much. Nine out of ten (90%) products will pay £50 or less for the initial period of delay for essentials during that time. It is worth checking what cover you have in place and keeping all receipts in case you need to make a claim. For anyone travelling this week, it is worth checking before you set off to save yourself a chilly wait at the airport.”