How to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting
There are actually some strange people out there who prefer the crispness of winter to the warmer temperatures of summer. However, one thing that even the biggest ‘wintophile’ would not look forward to is the increased likelihood of bursting pipes, caused by water freezing and expanding, leading to ruptures within your pipework.
Few things are worse than going away for a winter weekend, only to come back to find a house flooded with water. Water damage is notoriously expensive to repair, having the potential to run into many thousands of pounds.
The good news is there are steps you can take to minimise the possibility of frozen pipes, and there is no better time to take preventative action than in summer when evenings are lighter and temperatures are higher.
- Covering your pipes with insulation (aka lagging) is an easy and fairly cheap way to protect your pipes from freezing, particularly when you compare the costs to that of a huge repair bill that is almost inevitable after water damage. Choose lagging that is at least 50mm thick and comes with the approval of Water Regulations Advisory Scheme. Good quality foam pipe insulation is easy to find, but avoid going too cheap as these options probably won’t offer adequate protection from the low temperatures.
- As well as insulating pipework in your loft, garage, utility room and externally, don’t forget that your water tank needs to be insulated too. This will protect against freezing as well as improving its efficiency.
- Other insulation such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and double glazing will all contribute to protecting your pipes from freezing, as well as keeping more heat within your home which will help to lower heating bills.
- During particularly cold periods, individually turn on each tap every now and then or even consider leaving them to trickle water. Flowing water is much less likely to freeze than stagnant water.
If you are going away during the winter, then there are a few additional precautions that you can take:
- Think about using a timer to switch your on heating and hot water for certain periods throughout the day or night. Pay particular attention to heating rooms that have plumbing on external walls.
- If you are going away for a longer period, it would make sense to completely turn off the water and drain down the system. This ensures that there is no water in the system to freeze and cause problems.
- If you have an accessible attic, then leave the hatch open. If you were at home then you would probably feel a draught and would lose a lot of heat up into the loft, however while you’re away the warmer air would raise the temperature of the pipework, helping to reduce the chance of frozen pipes.
- Have a trusted friend or relative check your house while you are away. Be sure to show them the mains stop-cock and also ensure they have yours and your plumber’s contact numbers in case of emergency.
There are plenty of steps you can take to avoid the huge cost of water damage caused by frozen and burst pipes which won’t cost you a fortune to implement. With things like putting in insulation and analysing ‘high risk’ pipes, it’s best to get it done in summer, knowing that when the cold weather does come back, you are all ready and prepared.
Article by Benjamin Clarke