Be prepared for winter

Top tips – Start preparing now

There’s no time like the present to get started, here are a few simple things to share with homeowners and businesses to prepare for a cold winter.

  • Locate the stop tap and check it is in working order – if a pipe freezes and bursts in your home you need to be able to shut off the water supply quickly.
  • Insulate outside taps and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, garages and outbuildings, warehouses to help prevent them from freezing and bursting.
  • Repair any leaky taps or valves – this will stop the frost getting in and save water too.
  • If property will be empty, either:
    • leave the heating on low – about 14 degrees centigrade, or
    • if the building is going to be empty for a while, turn off the water supply and drain the system.
  • Keep the name of a plumber handy – type in your postcode at watersafe.org.uk to find your nearest accredited plumbing business.

Heat, insulate and protect your property

Winter in nearly upon us and always brings its own challenges. This means it’s more important than ever for households, businesses and landlords to take a pro-active approach to maintaining their properties and getting them ‘winter ready’. British Insurers data shows that during a spell of freezing weather, a claim to repair a burst pipe costs an average of £8,800 – and can often be more. Taking a few simple steps can help avoid the stress caused by frozen and burst water pipes – which can cause flooding, thousands of pounds worth of damage and leave properties without water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Heat

Warmth is the best defence against frozen pipes, so when people are away or the property is not being used, leaving the heating on low or have it come on couple of times a day helps keep a minimum level of heat to help keep the cold at bay.

Insulate

Insulation works by preventing inner heat energy escaping and so the smaller the volume of water the less heat energy is stored within it. Making sure pipes and cisterns are properly insulated is one of the simplest things that can be done to help protect a property from the cold. This is even more important in areas which are not heated like utility rooms and lofts. Take particular care to make sure that there are no gaps in the insulation at bends, valves or fittings, as even a small gap can let the frost in.

It is very important that the right insulation material is used as it can affect its protection performance – always select it according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Don’t place loft insulation under a storage cistern as it stops heat from the rooms below, which helps keep the cistern from freezing.

Insulation is a passive measure and there are many factors which determine how much insulation would be needed in any particular situation. The overriding rule of thumb is that the smaller the pipe the greater the thickness of insulation will be needed. 15 mm pipes hold very little heat energy making them very susceptible to freezing.

The Pipe Insulation Tool and guide can help users assess the potential effectiveness of insulation. Insulation alone is not always sufficient in which case an active protection system such as trace heating may be more appropriate.

Protect

Make sure that the stop tap is fully operational, as they are prone to become stiff or seize over time. You can do this by exercising it every now and then, but remember to turn it back half a turn after fully opening to prevent it seizing. Dripping water and cold draughts both increase the risk of pipes freezing. Reduce draughts by fitting draught excluders and repair drips or leaks as soon as they are discovered.

If a property is going to be left empty, make sure there is someone who can check regularly for any problems. If neighbours don’t have a key for your property make sure they have contact details for someone who does, in case of an emergency.

If your property is going to be vacant for an extended period over the winter months, turn off the water supply and drain the system – a WaterSafe registered plumber should be able to give you advice about this.

Holiday homes (static caravans) and park homes can be very susceptible to freezing as they often have very little inbuilt insulation. Added to this it can be very difficult to fully drain down the complete water system, as there are often pockets in the system and fittings where water is trapped.

Winterizing” products are often promoted as a solution, but unfortunately these typically contain antifreeze. Antifreeze is harmful to health, even the food grade varieties, and is illegal to use under water fittings regulations – even if it is to be flushed out before being used.

Even with the best of effort’s antifreeze cannot be fully removed as it contaminates the system by binding onto seals, fittings and pipes. There is further information about this topic on our Publication resources (click link).

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