Autumn action could prevent home disasters

22 March 2016

Autumn action could prevent home disasters

Victorians are still enjoying warm weather, making early autumn the perfect time to prepare their homes for the cooler months ahead.

RACV Emergency Home Assist statistics show that last autumn, blocked toilets, drains and pipes (19%) were among the most common problems, accounting for close to a fifth of call-outs.

Almost as many call-outs were for broken or damaged heating and cooling systems (17%), while more than 500 members needed help with ceiling or wall leaks (7%).

Between March and May 2015, RACV responded to more than 7500 member calls for help with home emergencies across both metropolitan and regional Victoria - equivalent to an incident approximately every 20 minutes.

RACV Home Services General Manager Aaron Flavell said RACV EHA plumbers attend blocked toilets pipes and drains on a daily basis.

“The main cause of the blockages in toilets is so-called “flushable wipes”, sanitary products and over use of toilet paper, while kitchen sink blockages are usually as a result of food scraps, fats and oils. It is recommended that these should all be disposed of in an appropriate bin instead.”

A broken or damaged heating or cooling system was the second most common incident last autumn, prompting a reminder to homeowners to have their heating and cooling system serviced by a qualified professional every one to two years, depending on how often you use the unit.

“Regular servicing will help extend the life of the unit and ensure the unit is running safely and efficiently. It can also prevent breakdowns as any potential issues can be identified during the service,” Mr Flavell said.

“It is also recommended to get this done before it gets too cold as all of the service agents get very busy in the winter months and can often take a couple of weeks due to high demand.”

Mr Flavell said that regular maintenance of your tap could prevent major malfunction – the third most common home emergency last autumn.

“If you have a tap that is very difficult to turn off or has a drip, this is a sign that the washers are worn and will probably fail in the near future. Replacing washers and O-rings and cleaning and lubricating the spindles can help prevent some incidents,” he said.

Mr Flavell said the main causes of ceiling and wall leaks are blocked gutters and breaks or gaps in roof tiles.

“It’s a good idea to have the gutters and downpipes in your home cleaned out twice a year. While people will often clean out their gutters, attention also needs to be paid to the condition of downpipes and drainage systems. If downpipes or drainage are blocked, the gutters will still fill up and cause water to flow into the roof cavity and down the walls,” he said.

“Because of the risks of working at height, we encourage members to consider hiring a professional with trade insurance to carry out the work.

 “While having RACV Emergency Home Assist means you don’t have to worry when a home emergency occurs, making sure you maintain your property can prevent avoidable damage.”

RACV also recommends making sure insurance policies are up to date to provide peace of mind that you are covered in the event that your home is damaged.

Top 10 autumn call-outs - 1 March 2015 to 31 May 2015

Top 10 autumn call-outs - 1 March 2015 to 31 May 2015

Job type

Number of incidents autumn 2015


Blocked toilets/drains/pipes



Broken or damaged heating/cooling system



Broken tap



Power problems



Broken or burst hot water system



Burst pipes






Ceiling/wall leaks



Broken door/window



Gas leak


Tips for preparing your home for autumn

  • Have your gutters cleaned regularly to avoid leaks caused by storms and heavy rains. It's a good idea to have the gutters and downpipes cleaned out in your home twice a year. Don't forget the downpipes and drainage system - if they are blocked, the gutters will still fill up with water and cause water to flow into the roof cavity and down the walls.
  • Check roofs for loose tiles. Consider hiring a professional who is accredited and has trade insurance to carry out risky work at heights.
  • Identify and secure loose objects susceptible to being blown over by higher winds.
  • Make sure appliances used outside, such as fridges and stereos, are brought inside or protected from rain.
  • Check garden lights for exposed wires and other damage and replace any damaged light fittings before they cause electrical problems.
  • Check that smoke detectors are working and that batteries have been replaced recently.
  • Check that power points are not overloaded.
  • Before starting to use heaters, make sure they are well maintained and that ducts and vents are clean and free from dust. Heating and cooling systems should be regularly serviced.
  • Don't place heaters near curtains and other flammable materials.


Written by Liselotte Geary, RACV Public Affairs on 03 9790 2849
March 22, 2016