Don't Risk Frozen Pipes
Posted on 7th December 2016 at 16:05
If you listen to the weather forecasters you may have heard that we’re in for a long, hard winter. So far, they seem to be on track. We’ve had the first snow up north and even in Oxfordshire the mornings have been frosty. All that, while we’re barely into December. It’s too early to know whether there’ll be a white Christmas. It’s not too early to make sure your home makes it safely through the winter.
Water may not be the first thing into your mind when the thermometer is dropping. Most of us rather enjoy the gorgeous look of frost-rimed trees. After that, we might worry about the state of the roads and pavements, or our heating bills.
But it pays to look a little closer to home and spend just a few moments surveying the state of your water pipes.
Not having any water to wash, clean or make tea is an annoyance. But a frozen water pipe – and especially one that has burst due to frost damage – is much more than that. A burst pipe could mean damage to your home and furnishings, losing favourite items or even having to move into a hotel at short notice. It also usually involves a costly insurance claim. And many times, the people affected will wonder how their pipes could have frozen. After all, England doesn’t get that cold, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not just low temperatures that threaten your water supply. And especially in England, damp air and wind chill combine to freeze any water in your pipes long before you expect it.
So what can you do to avoid frozen pipes?
Make sure all outside pipes are well wrapped up, especially where the wind might reach them.
Leave your central heating on low if you’re away from home for a few days, or set it to come on a couple of times during the day or night.
Or turn off the water at the mains and open all taps to drain the pipes before you leave. Remember to flush the toilets, too!
How do you know one of your pipes is frozen?
Your first sign of trouble is often that you turn on the tap and the water just trickles out before it stops completely once the all the water between the tap and the blockage has drained out. A trickle that doesn't stop is a sign that your pipe isn’t frozen solid quite yet. No water means it’s blocked.
What to do when a pipe is frozen?
Most importantly, don’t wait until the frost breaks it open. A burst pipe can cause major problems. Your pipes won’t be frozen solid from end to end, so locating the point where the ice is blocking the flow is your first task. And it’s not the easiest thing in the world, since the average home is criss-crossed by pipes.
To find which pipe is blocked, start at the top of your home and open each tap, checking if the water flows. If all upstairs taps are working and the downstairs ones are not, then the problem is between the upper and lower floors.
Do the same with all the downstairs taps, working towards the area where the water comes into your home.
Alternatively, if you have an idea which stretch of pipe is blocked, but don’t know exactly where, move along the pipe and feel for cold spots. The pipe may also show condensation or frost on the outside.
How to defrost a frozen pipe
You may want your water back as quickly as possible, but the best way to defrost a frozen pipe is slowly. Wrap the pipe in hot cloths, use an electric heating mat or gently warm it with a hairdryer until the ice dissolves. Leave the tap open so you know when the blockage has been cleared and the water runs freely once more.
Finding and clearing a frozen pipe can take a few hours, so once you have averted all threat of water damage to your home make sure it won’t happen again. If you don’t have pipe lagging available you can use felt, bubble wrap and even an old quilt to keep your pipes protected. Just wrap the pipes closely and tie the padding in place.
Then you can go right back to enjoy the frost on the trees.
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