Beat The Freeze

The winter months are once again upon us, which means that temperatures are starting to decrease and there is an increase in the chance of water within your pipes freezing. As temperatures drop, the water in pipes can start to freeze. When this takes place, pressure from the freezing water expanding is exerted on the internal structure of the pipe, resulting in a burst or a forcing a part of the joints which can then on thawing lead to leaks. Beat the freeze this winter by understanding how you and your business can prepare your pipes for the colder weather. In this piece, we’ll run through how to identify frozen pipes, how to attempt to remedy frozen pipes and most importantly, what preventative measures you can take to protect your property from bursts and leak issues.

How to identify a frozen pipe?

Frozen pipe incidents are an extra inconvenience that no business owner wants to have to deal with. A burst pipe can cause significant damage and is usually expensive to fix not to mention the cost and environmental impact of losing water.

The signs of a frozen pipe are as follows:

  • Inability to access running water from the taps.
  • The pipe itself has frosted over.
  • There may be an unpleasant smell coming from the drain.

Which pipes are most likely to freeze?

Waterlines, heating pipes and even sewage pipes can freeze over in winter. Pipes situated in older
buildings are also more prone to freezing due to metallic pipework – this type of pipework is better a conducting heat which means it loses it quicker too, therefore increasing the risk of freezing any water contained within. Exterior wall piping, basement and loft piping will also be more susceptible to freezing over due to a lack of insulation, making it harder to fend off ice-cold temperatures. Pipes in newer buildings are less likely to freeze due to the use of plastic pipework instead of metal.

If you’re looking to add an extra layer of protection, we’d recommend lagging your pipes. This
essentially means insulating them, which protects against condensation build up in cold water taps
and ensures less heat is lost in your hot water.

How to thaw frozen pipes

If you notice your pipes are frozen, you can try and gently thaw them. It’s crucial that this is attempted
as soon as you notice any instances of freezing, as this can help to prevent any further damage.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a plumbing expert to thaw your pipes. Here are a few of
our tips for doing so:

  1. Turn on all of the taps in the building – this will help to relieve pressure in the system.
    Also, it can help you identify where the frozen pipe is as no running water will appear.
    Following on from this you can find the section of the pipe that needs thawing.
  2. Warm pipes by turning up the heating – this increases the air temperature and can often be
    enough to thaw frozen pipes. Also, try opening cupboards & loft hatches to circulate warm air.
    For spaces where there is no heating available such as garages & lofts, a portable heater can
    be used instead.
  3. Apply direct heat to the pipe – if the pipe is exposed, firstly locate the frozen section by
    touch. Once you’ve located the affected area, attempt to warm the pipe slowly either with a
    hairdryer or warm cloth. It is important that you never attempt this using a direct flame, as this
    can burst or melt the pipe.

How to stop pipes freezing

Prevention is often better than cure when it comes to burst pipes. There are several things that you
can do to minimise internal pipework damage when cold temperatures hit, such as:

  • Check the building exterior to ensure it is in good condition, and that there are no imperfections that could affect the insulation of the building
  • Keep all windows closed to prevent drafts – the wind chill that comes with spiralling low temperature will do the most damage.
  • If you have pipes that are prone to freezing, leave a tap trickling to keep water running in the system.
  • If the building is left unattended for long periods, ensure the heating comes on for short periods every day.
  • Have a business key holder make regular visits and checks to the building if unoccupied for some time.
  • Ensure all pipes are lagged and water tanks are insulated, especially in cold areas of the building.
  • Ensure any evaporative cooling systems are circulating at sufficient temperatures and not freezing.
  • Make sure all chemical storage tanks and associated pipework are protected from freezing.
  • If you can, isolate water supplies to areas which are prone to freezing. Remember to flush once a week (twice a week in healthcare) to prevent Legionella build up.
  • Repair any dripping taps or overflows.
  • Know where the property’s internal stopcock is and regularly check that it is functioning correctly.
  • Ensure that you know where the water meter and sub meters are so they can be shut off quickly in an emergency.
  • Have contingency plans in place to cover burst pipes
  • Consider installing Northumbrian Water Group’s Total Water Solutions (TWS) AMR (Automated Meter Reading) solution. Our system can detect burst pipes at your property almost immediately and will then send a notification to your phone or computer.

Lower your risk of burst pipes this winter by taking preventative steps such as the ones outlined
above. For added peace of mind, get in touch with us to discuss how our solution can help you.

Advice for those with water system responsibilities under the current COVID-19 pandemic

25th March 2020

We would like to inform all our clients that we are taking the COVID-19 pandemic extremely seriously and the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients and employees is of utmost importance.

As a Water Undertaker we are in regular contact with Government and we are also following industry guidelines.

Whilst the immediate focus is on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 it is important to remember that the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is still in place.

With regard to water use: employer or those in control of premises must continue to manage any risks arising from their activity and this includes legionella control.

Legionella bacteria still pose a risk to water system users. In order to demonstrate control of the risks from the water systems it is useful to be creative in the way control measures are undertaken. It is important to remember that many of the control measures are that of monitoring as opposed to direct interventions.

To prevent the Corona virus from spreading we must all minimise day to day contact. In domestic environments, to protect both employees and clients alike it is vital that any information on those that are self-isolating are made aware to us before the visit. Our employees will confirm in person at the time of appointment on the health status of the site contact whilst maintaining a 2 metre distance. All employees are equipped with sanitiser and wipes and will continue with stringent hand washing whilst keeping the work tasks as short as possible. We are in daily contact with our employees to ensure they are not showing any symptoms.

We will encourage, where possible the taking of water temperatures from plant/tank rooms and unoccupied areas such as laundries and first aid rooms to further reduce person to person contact.

Some tasks such as lower-risk Legionella risk assessments could be put on hold until the current situation improves.

A key control measure in Legionella control is that of turnover, this is not always possible if buildings are shut down. Remember in non-healthcare premises all outlets must be used as a minimum once per week. If they are not, then a simple intervention such as a planned flushing programme should be put in place. If this is not possible, it is crucial to follow the correct mothballing procedures.

If all outlets have not been flushed weekly, then they should be treated like a new system i.e. flushed and disinfected before being brought back into use. For specific guidance please consult HSE advice document HSG 274 Part 2. If water use has significantly changed then consideration should be given to reviewing and updating the current risk assessment.

It is also vital to continue to monitor chemical control measures such as Chlorine Dioxide and keep chemical levels topped up.

We will work with our clients and offer as much support as possible during this difficult time.  Please use our 0800 028 3557 then Option 3 if you have any questions.

We will be constantly reviewing any changes/updates from government, HSE and LCA and will update this blog with the information.

Stay Safe

Total Water Solutions

Top five ways of reducing contamination in wastewater

Save Money

The most obvious reason to be proactive with water maintenance issues is that in the long run, the costs you will save by staying on top of maintenance far outweigh any investment it may require.

Leaks are a huge drain on money.

Even a small 5 litre per minute leak can add up to £5000 on your yearly water bill. On top of the increased water usage, leaks that are left for long periods of time can worsen, causing the repair work to grow more costly.

Leaking water can cause damage to your business’s premises, sometimes even major foundational and structural damage, which will result in considerable repair costs and could even force your business to close whilst the damage is fixed. Serious leaks can also cause disruption to your water supply, which may result in loss of operation for your business while it is resolved.

By ensuring that your water system is in good condition and keeping a close watch for any unexplained increases in water usage – or water being used when no one is on site – will allow you to identify any leaks quickly and minimise the cost to your business. Investing in Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology will allow you to receive live usage data and help you identify a leak quickly and before too much damage can be done.

Protect the Environment

As well as the costs a maintenance issue can incur to your business, poor maintenance of your water system can also affect the environment.

Businesses have a corporate social responsibility to save water and ensure their operations are streamlined to minimise water wastage. Recent figures show that water scarcity is a pressing global problem, and experts warn that the hot weather in summer of 2018 could lead to droughts and water restrictions being put in place in Spring 2019.

Businesses that ensure their water system is well maintained and water wastage through leaks or low-efficiency appliances is minimised can be sure that they’re not only protecting their business by not contributing to water shortages, but are also fulfilling their environmental responsibilities.

It’s also worth considering that in the event of water restrictions being put in place, businesses that are found to be wasting large amounts of water are unlikely to be particularly popular. So not only does good maintenance save money and protect the environment, it also protects your business’s public reputation.

A water audit conducted by an expert can identify numerous ways that your business can save more water and suggest low-cost, high-impact solutions for streamlining your system and reducing your water wastage.

Ensure your site users’ safety

Maintenance issues are not restricted to leaks. A well-maintained water system is not only free from physical damage, but also free from unused or unnecessary stretches of piping or conditions that encourage the growth of harmful bacteria such as legionella. Being proactive in reducing the risk of legionella is not only a legal obligation, it is also important for the protection of your business’s staff and building users.

Legionella is a bacteria that, when inhaled, can lead to potentially fatal cases of Legionnaire’s disease. It grows in water, and thrives in certain conditions, including areas of water that are left to stand, water that is kept between 20 and 45°C and water that contains rust, organic matter or biofilm.

It is therefore important to ensure that your business undergoes a legionella risk assessment regularly and is proactive in the maintenance of its water system. This includes removing any unnecessary stretches of pipe so that water cannot be left to stagnate and ensuring water systems and appliances are clean and free of rust and organic matter. The initial investment of streamlining and cleaning your water system is miniscule when compared to the legal costs and loss of reputation should any health issues occur due to poor maintenance.

Take Control of Your Water Maintenance Today

Whether you want to save money, protect the environment or are worried about the safety of your water system, our experts can help. From helping you identify leaks and streamlining your system to ensuring your business is free from Legionella, we can offer advice, carry out audits and complete any maintenance works your business requires.

Legionella Checklist: Is Your Business Up to Date?

If you’re not sure whether your business has covered all the bases for legionella compliance, our quick checklist will help you understand your current status, and the next steps to make sure your business is safe and compliant.

First things first…

1. Have your building(s) got a valid Legionella Risk Assessment?

A Legionella Risk Assessment involves checking your water system for conditions in which legionella bacteria will thrive. This includes standing water, fittings that produce spray or aerosol which can be inhaled, water that contains rust, organic matter or biofilm, and water that is kept between 20 and 45°C.

By law, businesses must have a legionella risk assessment carried out on their property. If you do not have proof of a risk assessment carried out by a competent assessor, it’s very important that you get one arranged as soon as possible.

2. Is your risk assessment up to date?

Legally, legionella risk assessments need to be accurate and kept up to date. However, we would always recommend an annual review to be certain that your water system does not cause harm to any building users.

3. Have there been any changes to your water system since your last risk assessment?

If you’ve made changes to your system, risk assessment review will be required. This is to ensure that the changes you have made will not increase the risk of legionella in your system, and ensure your business remains compliant with the relevant health and safety legislation (Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (1994).

After your risk assessment…

4. Have the relevant remedial works been carried out?

Your risk assessment may identify areas in which your water system needs to be altered to ensure that legionella risk is minimised. These changes should be implemented as soon as possible by qualified professionals. Once these changes have been made, it’s important to arrange a risk assessment review to ensure that the works have solved the identified issues.

5. Are your team aware of the required legionella management procedures?

Your risk assessment should also point out management processes that need to be maintained. This may include ensuring outlets such as showers and taps are used regularly to reduce the risk of standing water where bacteria can build up. To ensure your staff maintain these processes, staff awareness training is recommended to ensure any potential risks can be spotted.

6. Are you maintaining compliance throughout the year?

In order to ensure your business is compliant with legislation and your building users are protected from the risk of legionella, detailed records of your legionella management processes need to be kept and regular maintenance of your water system needs to be carried out. Risk assessments need to be carried out on all water systems and reviewed regularly to ensure any changes are documented and that the control measures remain effective.

Total Water Solutions’ expert Legionella team are qualified and experience in carrying out legionella risk assessments, remedial work, training and maintenance. For more information, or to book a service, get it in touch.

Desktop Audit

Every robust business plan starts with a well thought out strategy, and water efficiency is no exception. By taking the time to have a high-level examination of current policies, procedures, and equipment in the form of a desktop audit. You can identify potential changes, enabling  a methodical approach to seamlessly engraining water efficiency into your culture.

Of course, investing the time and the money in a full review of current procedural documentation, discussing and finalising appropriate actions, and disseminating these to staff is not something to be entered into lightly. However, there are a number of tangible benefits of starting with a high-level review that will make it more than worth the effort required.

It will allow you to take stock

For most businesses, policy and procedure documents and functioning equipment are rarely reviewed, and this can lead to them being out of date and not fit for purpose. They may not, for example, include changes in regulation, or reflect if physical systems have been upgraded.

A desktop audit helps to identify gaps in data and any billing problems. Once these issues have been recognised, the company can take measures to fill those gaps, by taking more meter readings or looking at water use in other areas of the business, and examining where these can be reduced.

It will allow you to get organised

The high level overview aspect of a desktop audit means that you can quickly see the highlights and the red flags of where the business is. It will also quickly establish the most urgent updates as well as the issues that can wait.

The audit will give an accurate first impression of what the opportunities are, and what is most necessary, so you can plan future work, prioritise the most essential requirements, and begin saving money immediately.

It will allow you to understand a full audit

A smaller, less detailed desktop audit can give you a taster of what is offered in a full water audit. Total Water Solutions is able to conduct these audits, and offer advice and guidance to firms to help them be more water efficient.

Having a better understanding of what a full water audit covers with little investment of time can help you establish whether it’s the right option to go for.

It could save you time

The desktop audit might well solve your water efficiency problems without needing to conduct a full audit. The quick check over your current working procedures or equipment could identify where changes could be made and the journey to total efficiency can begin right away.

Some of the tweaks and tune ups that could be quick wins for your business may be flagged up immediately, and you may then decide that this negates the need for a full audit. If you change your mind, you can always request a full audit at a later date.

It will allow you to make water efficiency part of the culture

Spending a little time conducting an audit will help to focus attention on the problem of water efficiency by including it on the agenda as part of a systematic process, rather than seeing it as an ad hoc event.

It is easy to only look at efficiency when there is a problem, for example a large bill or a broken pipe, however by conducting an audit, you may be able to identify where savings can be made before you reach the crisis point, and make this part of your routine.


Saving Water by Concentrating on the Small Things

The changing nature of the climate was reflected in this extended summer’s heatwave which left the levels of reservoirs in some areas of the country at worryingly low levels.

One drip from a leaky tap accounts for around 0.25ml of water. Not much, I know, but if a badly warn washer causes that tap to drip once per second, that turns into 15ml per minute, 900ml per hour or 21.6 litres per day – the equivalent of 29 bottles of wine.

Every day more than 17 billion litres enters the country’s water supply system to serve both households and businesses.

In 1830, one person would have used 18 litres per day. Today every person in the UK uses an average of 150 litres a day – much of it heated – for everything from drinking to washing and flushing the loo.

Multiply all the losses emanating from the nation’s dripping taps and leaking pipes and factor in all the unnecessary use and suddenly the water waste is shockingly high.

A traditional flush toilet uses 13 litres of water per flush, a washing machine 70, a five minute shower 35 and the average soak in the bath, 150 litres of water.

There are a whole host of ways in which we can either invest in more efficient technology or use a variety of water saving gadgets. Perhaps the most effective is simply to change the wasteful habits of a lifetime.

For example, using a pressure washer to clean the car will use around 600 litres of water per hour – which means even a two minute blast disposes of 20 litres. An average hosepipe uses up to 1,000 litres per hour

It‘s a much better idea to hand wash the car using a sponge, which often yields a cleaner finish. A typical car can easily be hand washed and rinsed using 20 litres of water.

Likewise, an efficient dishwasher will use about 11 litres of water per wash for a full load, although it’s debatable whether washing by hand saves on that amount.

A typical kitchen sink holds around 20 litres but this doesn’t take into account those who change the water part way through or rinse afterwards.

While dishwashers can be water efficient, the advice is to soak heavily soiled dishes first and scrape large food items into the bin.

One dishwasher load per day at 11 litres equates to 4,015 litres per year. Doing the dishes in the sink could use 7,300 litres per year.

Even if you are unconcerned at an environmental level, the resulting cost is substantial to households, businesses and industry.

For example, a modern Monobloc basin mixer tap uses four to five litres per minute. If the tap is left 20 per cent open it runs at a litre per minute – which is 60 litres per hour or 1,140 litres per day.

A leak of the same size from a business or industrial site uses the same amount of water which costs an estimated £1.87 per day for a leak of one litre per minute.

This also assumes that only one leak has occurred, however large sites have potential for multiple leaks.

We should also consider that some leaks can be at one litre per second, which is 60 times greater in both water loss and cost.

Some leaks which have gone unnoticed or ignored at small commercial premises can cost as much as £4,000 per year while a leak at a major manufacturing site easily costs £10,000. A large leak could potentially pour £20,000 straight down the financial drain.

By saving water, you will also save money, energy, cut carbon dioxide emissions and in doing so protect the environment for future generations.

We must all stop taking our water supply for granted and begin to think of it as a very precious resource which needs to be carefully managed and conserved.

Top five ways of reducing contamination in wastewater

Households and businesses can all take action to reducing contamination in wastewater, as this reduces the risk of sewers becoming blocked, and improves the quality of water across the UK and helps maintain the longevity of the waste water systems.

Contaminated wastewater can also increase business costs, as additional work carried out by water companies to treat sewage will incur extra costs. In fact, it can hit four times over, in the cost of the mains water, the cost of the effluent volume, the cost of solids in the Mogden formula (the calculation used to find the required charges to collect, treat and dispose of industrial wastewater) and the cost of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).


  1. Keep solids and contaminated items out of the drain

This includes solids, hazardous chemicals, medicines, and toxic materials. Solids should always be swept or vacuumed before they reach the drain, as they can cause blockages if they are flushed. This will also protect equipment, as particularly large solids can cause damage. Chemicals, medicines and toxins can affect the quality of water, even when it has been treated, and could potentially be poisonous. Instead, these should be disposed of correctly, with the business providing separate, specialist bins for chemical waste, medical waste and toxic materials.


  1. Install oil interceptors where needed

Capture oil and grease before it goes down the drain as it can build up and cause blockages in the sewerage systems, preventing the water from completing its journey to the treatment plant. Oil interceptors efficiently separate oil from any wastewater by passing it through a number of chambers, trapping the oil to be disposed of safely by a professional company.


  1. Only treat what you need to treat

Not all waste products need to be treated, as this will be a costly exercise for many businesses. Make sure that some discretion is applied when deciding what should go down the drain, to avoid unnecessary treatment and charges. Liquid waste can be segregated into a separate vessel from sediment, suspended solids, and other waste that it is not beneficial to treat. By separating effluent material prior to disposing of the waste, the water can be treated more directly and at a lower cost that the treatment plant separating it afterward.


  1. Reuse and Recycle

If the wastewater will not be harmful to the environment, you may consider reusing it as opposed to sending it for treatment immediately. It could be used for washing vehicles (although care should be taken to ensure any grit or solids have been removed to avoid scratches), watering plants and greenery, or rinsing external areas. This additional usage of the water will reduce the volume of effluent that needs to be treated and paid for.


  1. Monitor your wastewater

Keep accurate records of the volume and composition of wastewater, including when there are higher volumes of solids, chemicals, and other contamination. This means the business can identify peak periods where wastewater will need to be processed more substantially. A plan can then be drawn up to reduce this waste by refining manufacturing processes and introducing training to highlight how to reduce contamination during peak times.



What's the cost of your Bad Habits?

Find Out More


“I have no doubt that there will have been an increase in water related incidents at business properties due to the ‘beast from the end’ hitting the UK. Waterlines, heating pipes and even sewage pipes have been freezing.

“This can happen anywhere but especially in older buildings, where there’s still a lot of metallic pipe work in use, this pipe material will absorb a lot of the cold air and freeze. With traditional copper water pipes you can try to get heat onto the frozen area using a thawing machine that generates an electric current.

“A lot of newer office/commercial builds, however, use plastic pipe work for their water systems, this is a much better weapon against freezing but please remember that all plastic pipe work should be lagged as an extra layer of protection.

“Incidents will increase when the cold weather moves on, this is mainly due to pipe movement as frozen pipe work thaws, this creates leakage when pipe joints try to return to their original position before freezing but can’t, this is when pipe bursts are common place and can take businesses by surprise.

“There are a number of things that customers can do to minimise internal pipe work damage. Businesses should check the exterior of their buildings, including the flashing and siding, to make sure it’s intact and in good condition. The recent snow and high winds may have caused damage that allows drafts or colder air to get inside. Keep windows closed to prevent drafts.

“Cold will freeze pipes no matter what, but it’s the wind chill that will do the most damage. So on really cold days where the wind’s getting through to the pipe work, that’s where you could experience a major freeze-up.

“Moving water does not freeze, so for pipes prone to freezing leave a tap trickling to keep water running in the system.

“If you are leaving your building unattended, set the heating to come on for short periods every day. If the building is going to be empty for a long time, make sure the key holder makes regular visits to check inside and outside the property.

“The cold weather can cause enough disruption to business, so consider your water infrastructure and make that one less thing to worry about.”

Here are a few extra tips to help prepare business properties for challenging conditions:
•Check any trace heating is operational on any external pipework and inspect during cold spells.
•Ensure any evaporative cooling systems that are in use are circulating at a sufficient temperature not to freeze, and inspect regularly.
•Make sure that chemical storage tanks and associated pipework are adequately protected from freezing.
•If you have any unnecessary or little used processes, drain if possible.
•Have contacts and procedures in place to deal with emergency situations.
•Know where your water meter is and any sub meters so key areas can be identified and quickly shut off.
•If you can, isolate the water supplies to areas which are vulnerable to freezing.
•Repair any dripping taps or overflows
•Find out where the property’s internal stopcock is located and check that it works correctly.
•Consider installing our new AMR system (Automated Meter Reading), our system can warn customers of a burst to their premises almost immediately through our clever software alarms. This alarm can be sent to any device or computer.


What's the cost of your Bad Habits?

Find Out More