30 November 2010

Burst Pipes, and -20 Degrees For The UK?

Snow is predicted across most of the UK by the end of the week and an item on yell.com discussing home heating suggested that temperatures are predicted to go as low as -20C in some parts of the country by the end of the week.

This may not actually be a typo, it got down to -17C in East Cheshire last year, temperatures that are rarely experienced south of Oslo, and standing water in my kitchen kettle was frozen solid in the morning.

Obviously it is vital to ensure that you have adequate levels of insulation and fully serviced and reliable heating when facing these kinds of conditions. People who live in more exposed areas and in older properties will find these exceptionally low temperatures to be quite a challenge.

The risk of bursts is one of the major concerns for most, as a burst water main inside a property can cause a catastrophic amount of damage.

Make sure your coldwater pipe-work is lagged if possible.

If leaving the house for any length of time, turn off the water at the main and drain both the cold (pipe-work) and hot water system.

If, like me, you have a problem which is preventing you from turning off the water supply at source then it is safer to leave cold taps slightly open so that there is a modest flow into sinks, basins, or what ever. This is a waste of water but it will ensure that pipes do not freeze as flowing water raised from the underground main will always be above freezing.

Leave some heating on if you can and try to maintain an ambient temperature in the house of around 10 degrees.

Do not put antifreeze or salt into your hot water system or central heating header tanks or cisterns. Yes it has been done, but this can cause more damage than it will solve and you run the risk of seriously contaminating your drinking water supply.

If copper pipe-work has become frozen and is still intact do not try to thaw it with an application of aggressive heat such as a blow-torch or electric heat gun and this is particularly important in the vicinity of capillary joints. Use towels or cloths soaked in warm water and apply to pipe work. Sometimes just caressing a frozen pipe with your hand will be enough to thaw it providing the blockage is only of limited or local extent, and of course you know where it is.

So there you are, some basic advice on frozen pipes. Hopefully none of you will have any problems with this but do remember if your woes are boiler related that we will be able to help no matter how big or small the problem.

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