It has certainly been a glorious summer here in the UK and we have had much heatwave fun – however, now it is time to buckle down for winter and that means preventing frozen pipes throughout your home.
Welcome back to the Only Radiators blog where this week, we are taking a quick break from sharing with you the very best new designer radiators via our expansive online store, so that we can bring you up to speed on everything you need to keep in mind to avoid frozen pipes this winter.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Let’s kick things off by explaining why water pipes freeze in the first place.
Your home’s water pipes, as you can imagine, usually have a little water in them even when the taps are not turned on. If this leftover water is present during any quick cold spell that winter throws at us, then it can freeze within the pipe.
Sure, a blockage is not immediate. This water freezing can first cause build-ups but then ultimately it will fully freeze your pipes. This is not a good development any way you look at it, both leaving you without running water and presenting the very real risk of pipes bursting and flooding your home.
So, how do we prevent frozen pipes before they happen?
Protect Your Pipes Before They Freeze
You might look outside of your window into that bright October sun and wonder why Only Radiators is wasting their breath telling you this now – well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Even basic jobs become an intense hassle once temperatures drop – trust us, we’ve all been through that exact situation before. This job is best completed now while the sun’s still shining, providing you with time for troubleshooting, rather than the night before the worst December snowstorm on record or whatever this winter throws at us!
Now we bring you a selection of vital techniques you can perform to minimise the risk of water pipes freezing in winter. Apply as many of these as possible to your home as you prepare and you may well save your home from frozen pipes this winter.
1. Insulate Pipes and Tanks
Perhaps the most vital and preventative advice that you can consider when stopping water pipes freezing. No doubt you will already see this insulation in action around your boiler, or at least in the homes of others.
First you can check your pipes for “lagging”, essentially a built-in insulating layer that lowers your chances of frozen piping as well as your heating bills thanks to improving your home’s base heat conservation. If your pipes are lagged then fantastic! If not, you can insulate your pipes yourself.
If you are by pressed time, amount or budget then ensure you focus your insulation conversion on those most exposed stretches of piping running outside or through the unheated areas of your home.
Insulation should be heavy sponge clamped around your piping and tanks for easy removal and adaptation. However, you can get creative in temporary solutions with thick towels, duvets or sleeping bags in combination with zip ties. Often these fixes can tide you through a surprise cold spell until you can reach the DIY store and grab a more permanent frozen pipe solution.
2. Keep Heating Running Low
You should not necessarily crank out the heating 24/7 throughout winter (especially if you want to watch those bills) but it can pay dividends to set your thermostat at a general gentle temperature throughout the lesser frequented winter months.
This will keep your home’s internal temperature at a level that prevents pipes from freezing!
3. Open Cabinets and Lofts Periodically
Useful especially when in tandem with the above recommendation, opening doors to cabinets, cupboards and especially lofts enables warm air to circulate further throughout your home and reach those kitchen and bathroom pipes located nearby.
A little warm draught can make all the difference when it comes to frozen pipes, and this lesser-known technique can also help prevent other issues such as damp and mould.
4. Run Taps Regularly
Frozen pipes in winter occur more often when the taps connected have not been used much or at all.
Periodically turn on the taps throughout your home – even if only for a few seconds – to cultivate the flow of water throughout your pipes. This will work wonders in preventing the inactivity that can result in your home’s pipes freezing.
5. Drain Your Water System
Perhaps one of the more drastic solutions yet certainly effective, draining your water tank is one sure way to prevent pipes freezing! Clearly not feasible for households lived in throughout winter, it is a great option if you have multiple properties or know you will not be present for an extended period. Your perfectly preserved pipes will be ready and waiting for you to refill come springtime!
The above 5 points are the key ways that you can prepare for a cold winter and the toll it takes on your household. By following each technique and incorporating them in some blend into your maintenance, there is no reason that your pipes should ever freeze.
Extra Tip: Seal the Deal!
You can also pre-empt frozen pipes by taking the luxury of foresight to use your preferred wall sealant to fill up gaps around pipes where draughts are coming through. This extra weatherproofing solution is incredibly easy and cheap, and may well prove invaluable.
Of course, no amount of preparation is a guarantee against disaster. So let us first cover how exactly you will be able to determine whether or not your pipes are frozen, then equip you with the knowledge needed to defrost those frozen pipes yourself!
How to Know if Your Pipes are Frozen
If, following all of those preventions, you suspect that your water pipes are frozen, then there is a simple way to determine it. If you turn on your tap and notice that the water pressure is not hitting its usual flow – this could well indicate that you have a frozen pipe. As well as that, a total lack of water pressure might suggest a ruptured pipe as well as a blockage.
Time to Thaw Those Pipes
So, you have diagnosed one of the pipes running throughout your home as potentially frozen. Now what do you do?
Luckily it is quite simple to thaw your water pipes. Here’s a quick run-through that should easily solve 9 out of 10 frozen pipe issues.
First thing to do if you have found a frozen pipe is switch off your water supply. You do this to prevent it from bursting if it has not already.
If your pipe has burst, it’s time to turn off the stop cock and get in touch with your friendly local qualified plumber. No amount of internet tutorials can help you now!
However, if your pipe has not yet burst then let’s get out those DIY credentials and once again impress your loved ones with the help of the Only Radiators blog.
The Thawing Process
Thawing out pipes is a gradual process – you may be lucky enough to only need to do a few of these steps but you may find yourself repeating them in their entirety. Each frozen pipe situation is unique so just give it your best shot and enjoy that you are gaining vital know-how for the next time the situation arises.
1. Turn on the Taps
Do this throughout the home to relieve pressure on your pipes. A lack of water pressure in one tap will reveal the pipe requiring thawing. A lack of pressure across multiple taps may be a sign to enlist a plumber. Bearing in mind that pipes leading outside or into the attic are most likely to freeze, work back from the weak tap to discover the pipe requiring your attention.
2. Hike up the Heat
Whether or not you have found your frozen pipe following Step 1, increase the temperature throughout the home. This may in itself thaw out the frozen pipe. Open cupboards, cabinets and lofts to circulate heat throughout the home as much as possible. Also use any portable heaters you have – though please do not leave these unattended overnight as they can be a recipe for danger!
3. Apply Heat Directly
If the previous approaches have not yet thawed your water pipes, you can apply heat directly to the pipe that is frozen. Zero in on the point of the pipe that is frozen. Then use a gentle heat from a device such as a hair dryer. If you cannot reach the pipe with any plugged device, you can try soaking a rag in hot water and draping it around the frozen pipe section.
Do not get carried away and use anything too powerful such as a lighter or blowtorch. While you may well rid the pipe of the frozen section, a momentary lapse in focus may see you boil the water and subsequently rupture the pipe – leaving you in a far worse predicament than the one you were attempting to solve!
Potent Heat Support
Do not fight the threat of frozen pipes alone this winter. It’s coming, it’s cold and it’s merciless. Luckily, so is our team and the incredible selection of home heating solutions that we bring!
And why not reinforce your new techniques with a new designer radiator, so you can watch winter pass by angrily outside while your family lounges in exquisite warmth. Just check out the thousands of styles of radiator we have available right here in our expansive online store.
Here to Help
The Only Radiators team is here to help whenever you need us. It doesn’t have to be regarding the hottest new designer radiators – we know all about the pipes that supply their heat, too!
So, for advice from our leading team on how to keep your home piping running in even the coldest winters the UK can throw at us, just contact us right here.
You can also browse the rest of our blog for all sorts of juicy articles covering every home heating topic under the (soon to be gone) sun.
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