Preventing Burst Water Pipes in Winter
There is nothing worse than having a burst water pipe in the middle of winter, particularly if it occurs whilst you are away from home, the damage caused can be quite extensive and the cost of both piping and insulation is small relative to the damages caused when a pipe breaks. Whilst the resulting damage is usually covered by a home insurance policy, the cost of replacing the pipe work is not, this will have to be paid for out of your house budget. There are a number of things that a home owner can do to make sure that pipes are protected against the cold weather.
In almost all parts of the United Kingdom, sub zero temperatures are experienced at some time throughout the year, conditions that can lead to pipes bursting and often a nasty mess to clear up. Water expands as it freezes, if this expansion occurs in a contained space such as a water pipe, there could be substantial pressure placed on the pipes inner walls. This additional stress can weaken the pipe wall leading to bursting. All types of pipe can burst, lead, iron or plastic can all be compromised by freezing water.
Lagging, is the traditional way of helping to protect pipes from bursting, insulation is also essential for the good performance and long life of pipe systems. Insulating cold-water pipes will prevent them from dripping condensation, and insulating hot-water pipes will prevent costly heat loss and save on energy bills. External pipes under the patio and on external walls ( in fact any pipes for hot water and central heating running outside the heated area should all be lagged if possible, paying particular attention to joints and valves. A trip up to the loft will be required to check the pipe work located there, please be careful as many people manage to fall through the ceiling or have accidents whilst trying to enter the loft.
All pipes in the loft must be insulated except those which are already under loft insulation or within a tank. The insulation may be old, if it is, it’s probably worth replacing it, you can buy all lagging materials at your local DIY store, prices are not expensive. Check to make sure, there are no gaps and fix all lagging with tape or string. If your water tank is in the loft and it doesn’t have a lid, see if you can obtain a plastic one or at least cover it with something to prevent items falling in to it. If you water tank is not insulated, you can easily fit a jacket to it, whilst in the loft check to make sure that your water tanks are filling up correctly.
Another easy way to help prevent pipes bursting in the winter months, is to leave a tap ever so slightly on, the flow of water through the pipes will, prevent the pipes from freezing. If you are going away, you should consider draining down the water systems and turning the water off at the stop cock. Alternatively, you can leave the heating on ‘frost guard’, this will help prevent the pipes from freezing. As a guide, the heating should be set to a minimum of 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing can be a problem in the United Kingdom from the beginning of November to the end of March. If you are going to leave the central heating on whilst you are away, leave the loft hatch open. Always check you home insurance policy, wording, there may be special conditions contained within it relating to un-occupancy of your home and requirements relating to management of the home waters systems.