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The importance of winter pipe care

It’s that time of year again! The temperatures are dropping and that means it’s time to start thinking about how to keep our pipes from freezing and our water flowing.

Water expansion is the main reason why pipes burst during winter and frozen pipes can lead to costly repairs as well as major headaches.

According to British Gas, The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that the cost of insurance claims for a burst pipe can rise to around £7,500 during freezing weather.

But don’t worry, there are a few simple things you can do to winter-proof your pipes and keep them frost-free all season long.

Read on for our top tips on how to stop your water pipes from freezing this winter.

Top tips to stop frozen pipes

Insulate your pipes

Insulating your pipes (also known as “lagging”) is one of the most effective ways to prevent your pipes from freezing. Anywhere there is exposed pipe, there is a risk of freezing—especially if that area is in an exterior wall or unheated area like a crawl space or attic.

You can use either rubber or fibreglass foam pipe insulation to protect your pipework, both of which are readily available at most hardware stores – just make sure to cover as much of the pipe as possible.

Let warm air circulate

While you probably put the heating on to warm yourself up first, it’s a good idea to share some of that heat with your pipework.

Letting warm air circulate around pipes will increase their temperature and lower the risk of them freezing. Open up cabinets, doors and cupboards where plumbing is located and let your radiators do the rest.

Disconnect hoses and look after water tanks

Water left over in hosepipes from the summer can freeze not only the hoses themselves, but also the faucets and pipes to which they’re attached. Disconnect any hoses that are attached to outdoor taps and store them indoors for the winter months.

The same goes for water tanks stored in garages, basements and unheated lofts. Disconnect those you’re not using and insulate those that you are.

Set your thermostat to a consistent temperature

Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature day and night. We know it can be tempting to turn the heat down at night to save on your energy bill, but this can actually put your pipes at risk of freezing.

By keeping your thermostat set to a consistent temperature, you’ll help prevent your pipes from freezing—and save money on your energy bill in the process. And remember to keep the heat in by closing windows, sealing edges and using draught excluders.

Know where your stopcock is

One of the most important things you can do to protect your home from frozen pipes is to know where your main water shut-off valve is located. If a pipe does freeze and burst, being able to quickly shut off the flow of water will help minimise any damage.

So take a minute now to locate the shut-off valve for your home (read our stop valve guide here) and familiarise yourself with how it works. That way, if you ever need to use it in an emergency, you’ll know just what to do.

Fix any leaking taps

A common piece of advice found online is to let your taps drip in cold weather to prevent the pipes freezing. The thinking here is that by doing this, you’ll be emptying the pipes of water that could otherwise freeze.

However, what you’re actually doing is moving the problem from your pipes to your sink and drains. Always fix dripping taps and ensure they are turned off fully after each use.

How do I know if my pipes are frozen?

Following the advice above should hopefully help to keep your pipework intact and your home safe, but if you still believe your pipes are frozen, burst or leaking, here are the telltale signs to look out for:

  • Little or no water coming from your taps or shower.
  • Exposed pipes that appear frosty or wet.
  • Unusual noises coming from your system when you flush the toilet or use your sink – Bubbling or whistling sounds could be a sign of air trying to escape your pipes through a blockage.
  • Damp patches or rings on walls or ceilings.
  • Very low water pressure throughout your home

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, give us a call for free on 0800 037 7078 for additional advice or to book a free visual inspection by our expert leak engineers in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey or Essex.

Taking a few simple steps now can help to prevent costly repairs later on, so don’t wait until it’s too late. Rest assured knowing that your home is protected against one of the most common causes of plumbing problems during the winter.