How to protect your pipes in the winter

We recently went tubing on a dry ski-slope near to our home and they had to grease up our tubes!  I asked if this was to make them go faster and he said it was because their main water pipes under the slopes had frozen and burst!  They were depending on rain every day to make the slopes slippery!

A frozen pipe is something that most of us worry about in the winter as the damage done by a burst pipe can be quite devastating and also costly.

When water freezes it expands, which means if water freezes in weak pipes that are made out of a weak materials such as plastic, then they are at risk of bursting or leaking.  It’s of particular concern when temperatures drop below freezing (zero degrees Celsius) and stay that way all day.

As water pipes on our own properties are our own responsibility to maintain, here is a list of ways to help protect your pipes in the winter months to prevent freezing:

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Insulate your pipes

You can insulate your water tanks and purchase pipe lagging to insulate the pipes too.  You can buy the material online or most DIY stores will sell insulation.  It’s not that expensive and is well worth it to avoid damage to your property and possessions.  Be sure to insulate any exposed pipes in the attic, garage, basements and even kitchen cupboards.

Fix drips

Make sure you keep your pipes in good working order and fix and drips or leaks.  A small drip of water coming through and can result in a frozen pipe.

Never set the temperature to zero

We have a minimum temperature of 7 degrees Celsius on our thermostat so we cannot set the temperature any lower, even if we wanted to.  This is to protect the pipes and water tank from freezing, particularly if we turn the heating off and go on holiday for a while, or forget to turn the heating back on!

Overnight you should set it to a minimum temperature of 12 degrees Celsius.  Apparently the cost of the heating is justified in comparison to the cost of repairing a frozen pipe.

Turn the water off and drain if absent for long periods of time

If you are going away for an extended period of time then is could be best to turn the water off altogether and drain all the pipes and radiators.  Otherwise give a key to a friend or neighbour and ask them to check in every now and then to ensure nothing has burst.

What do I do if a pipe freezes and bursts?

If a pipe is frozen then you should turn off the water at the mains and ensure the pipe hasn’t burst.  Using hot water bottles or towels soaked in hot water, wrap these around the pipe to defrost the water.

If the pipe has burst then you’ll still want to turn off the water, but you’ll need to contact a professional plumber to fix the pipe.  Once the water thaws it will leak through the broken part of the burst pipe.  Have plenty of towels at the ready, turn off your electricity and contact your plumber ASAP.

If anything is damaged already then take photos of the damage and contact your home insurance provider for further advice.

How do I turn off the water?

The water is turned off at the ‘stopcock’ by turning it anti-clockwise.  These are usually under the sink in the kitchen, but they may be somewhere else.  Ours is behind a false wall in our living room!  Make sure you know where yours is located in case of an emergency.

Hopefully with a bit of prevention you will never experience a burst pipe.

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