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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.