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How To Prevent and Treat Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipe

There are many things to consider for your home over the colder months, from saving money on energy bills to staying safe over Christmas. Another thing to add to that list is how to prevent frozen pipes.

Frozen pipes can often lead to burst pipes, leaks and floods. Thankfully, you can take several preventative steps to avoid the risk.

How And Why Do Pipes Freeze?

Pipes usually have a small amount of water, even when the taps are off. Unfortunately, this means that even when you’re not home using the taps, there is still the risk of frozen and blocked pipes.

As the temperature decreases, water freezes, which can lead to pressure on the pipe. Depending on the blockage size and the age and condition of the pipe, frozen pipes may not always lead to a burst one. However, it’s best to expect and plan for the worst.

How To Avoid Frozen Pipes

Prevention is always better than cure, so start by taking steps to avoid pipes freezing in the first place.

Leave The Heating On

When you’re away from the house for a significant period, set your thermostat for 12-15C. Most insulated houses should remain at this temperature without the need for heating, but should the temperature drop, your central heating will kick into action and keep the air in your home warm enough to stop ice from forming.

Leaving the heating on may not sound like the most eco-friendly or cost-effective option, but it’s more affordable than the cost of repairs after a leak.

Insulate Pipes

If you have pipes in cold areas of the home, insulate them. Insulation is affordable to buy, easy to install and makes a huge difference.

Insulate Outside Taps

Though easily forgotten during the winter months, insulating your outside taps will help to reduce the chance of them freezing.

Open Doors and Hatches

By doing this, you’re not “letting the heat out” but allowing warm air to circulate your home and reach the colder areas of the house.

Drain Your Water System

If you’re planning to be away for a while, even if you’ve done all of the above, draining your system is another preventative step you can take. The less water in the pipes, the less likely it’ll be that you’ll have to deal with a burst pipe when you arrive home.

Ask For Help

If you’re going away, ask a neighbour or friend to pop in and check things over. The sooner an issue is spotted, the better.

Signs of Frozen Pipes

Catching a frozen pipe as soon as possible is the best way to avoid further issues. A pipe can freeze anywhere on your property yet affect multiple pipes in your home. Therefore, it’s essential to narrow down the possible location of the freeze.

There are a few things to look out for as we enter winter and the temperature drops.

  • Frost or moisture on exposed pipes.
  • Ceiling or walls around your property with damp patches.
  • Bubbling/whistling or other unusual sounds from pipes.
  • A lack of or limited amount of water coming from taps and showers.
  • Unusual smells coming from the faucet.

How To Thaw Pipes?

Turn Up The Heat

Increasing your home’s temperature may be all that’s needed to thaw frozen pipes.

If you’re unsure where the blockage is, open up any cupboard doors, loft hatches, etc., to allow air to circulate.

If you find that isn’t enough, use a portable heater to target a specific room – this is particularly useful for lofts and basements without radiators.

Apply Heat Directly

If you know where the ice in your pipes is, you can apply heat directly. Hairdryers are helpful if there is power near.

If not, a hot water bottle or warm cloth wrapped around the pipe will also work. Never use a direct flame.

Will Frozen Pipes Thaw Themselves?

Pipes that have frozen may thaw on their own, but that entirely depends on the conditions.

Our recommendation would be to take action as soon as possible to avoid burst pipes and leaks. If you cannot treat the frozen pipe yourself, you can call a plumber.

If A Pipe Bursts?

On Your Property

  1. Turn off the water via the stopcock. Ensure you know the location of your stopcock and make sure it’s accessible. They’re often found below the sink unit in the kitchen.
  2. Open all taps to reduce flooding.
  3. Soak up/block off escaping water with thick towels.
  4. Call a qualified plumber.
  5. Turn off taps once pipework is repaired to avoid further flooding.

Outside Your Property

The water pipes leading up to your property boundary are the water company’s responsibility. So, if a pipe is frozen or bursts outside your property, report it to your water company immediately.

All data correct at time of publication.