When it comes to boiler breakdowns, blocked drains, frozen pipes and other such home emergencies, the inconvenience, unexpected cost and plain aggravation can be a lot to bear.
While your home insurance will pick up the bill for fire, flood or theft, it may not get your heating back on again - so where can you turn to get real peace of mind this winter?
Home Emergency Cover to the rescue!
If you're looking for cover should the worst happen, a cheap option is to add Home Emergency Cover to your existing home insurance policy.
Sold by the likes of Esure, Halifax, Norwich Union, Direct Line, British Gas and HomeServe, this will guarantee the provision of an approved tradesperson to make your property safe when disaster strikes.
This will usually provide emergency cover for a number of scenarios including your boiler breaking down, faulty heating, internal plumbing and drainage, roof damage, electricity supply, as well as locks, doors and windows.
This means that if, for example, your boiler explodes, the provider will send a qualified tradesman to your home to try and get it fixed right away - and also pay towards labour costs and repairs.
Read our guide to home emergency cover for more information on this and other optional home insurance extras.
Check if it's already offered - or buy a bolt-on policy
Some insurers, such as Legal & General, include Home Emergency Cover as standard as part of their household insurance cover.
With L&G, for example, if customers experience a problem - such as a water leak from frozen pipes - they can call a tradesperson to carry out an emergency repair, up to the value of £150.
If Home Emergency Cover is not offered as standard, most insurers will allow customers to bolt it on to their policy for a few extra pounds.
Plans tend to cost between £5 and £15 a month - but make sure you shop around and read the small print as the services offered can vary; also note that claiming on this part of the policy won't affect your no-claims discount.
What's on offer?
For a cost of £47.99 a year, Esure offers Home Emergency Cover as an add-on with either buildings or home contents insurance. This covers boiler breakdown, along with emergencies relating to the main heating system, plumbing and drainage, and domestic power supplies.
Elsewhere, for just over £4 extra a month, Halifax's Home Emergency Cover guarantees the provision of an approved tradesperson to make your property safe; the cover is excess free and will pay out up to £500 per incident, including heating repairs.
Home Emergency Cover from Aviva can be bought as an add-on to its home insurance policies for £4.95 per month, and will cover you for emergency water, heating and service problems and emergency locksmith; repairs are covered up to a value of £500 and there is no excess to pay.
Check your current account
It's worth noting that while many insurers will allow customers to add home emergency cover to their existing policy, you should also check the small if you pay a monthly fee for a packaged or “added value” account, this may well be one of the benefits offered.
Should I pay for a policy?
Home emergency cover policies can be a good option if you have a good local plumber for routine work, but would like someone in an emergency - and your trusted plumber is unavailable.
That said, the policies don't include an annual inspection or service, and they are only as good as the local contractors chosen by the insurer to turn up at your home.
If you're looking for an alternative to forking out for Home Emergency Cover, then self-insuring is the money-saving option - where you simply put a small amount into a savings account each month instead.
But remember that with home emergencies, prevention is better than cure - so don't think you can simply wait until disaster strikes before deciding what to do.
It's crucial to have the funds available if you do run into difficulties, and if you're not convinced that you're disciplined enough to squirrel money away, then paying for a policy which will ensure you can call on an experienced tradesperson to fix the problem right away can provide significant peace of mind.
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