Friday, 4 November 2016

Protecting your pipework

When it's snowing outside, you wouldn't leave the house without putting on a coat to protect you from the cold, but it may not have occurred to you that the same principle applies to your home's pipework. As well as being incredibly inconvenient, frozen pipes can also cause serious damage to your property, so it makes sense to follow a few simple steps in order to prepare your plumbing system for the cold winter weather.

Frozen pipes

Wherever you have exposed/uninsulated water pipes running through an area of your home which isn't insulated, you're at risk of the water inside the pipes freezing. This can include the pipework inside your home when you switch off your central heating due to going on holiday as well as pipes running through garages, lofts and roof spaces, under suspended wooden floors on the ground floor, cellars and outbuildings. The types of pipework susceptible to freezing are varied, including pipes belonging to central heating systems, the hot and cold water pipework to the taps on your basins, baths, showers, WCs, sinks or boiler condensate pipes.


How to stop pipes from freezing

The best method of preventing against frozen pipes is to ensure first of all that your pipes don't run through an unheated area, however, this won't always be possible. If you're going away for a short period, consider leaving your heating system on a timed function and set it to the lowest temperature on the thermostat. For longer periods, remember to drain down the water from your property's various systems. A quality plumber will be able to do this for you and can meet you on your return to fill the systems again. Pipe insulation will help to slow down the rate of freezing but won't prevent it alone.


Frost thermostats

These work by measuring and sending the temperature of the air around your boiler back to a controller to turn on the boiler at low temperatures, however, it offers no protection to hot and cold water pipes.


Trace heating

This involves an electrical cable attached to a pipe, which is then wired to a transformer and attached to the electrical supply. The pipe and cable are then covered in pipe insulation and the cable is turned on and off by an external frost thermostat, normally when the temperature falls below 2.5 - 3˚C. This process is basically the equivalent of placing a pipe in its own mini electric blanket so that it's warm enough not to freeze but not warm enough to heat water above 2.5˚C.


Condensate pipes

Condensing boilers can produce about 1 litre of condensate water in an hour. Should condensate pipes freeze, it can cause significant problems for your boiler as well as severely damaging your appliance. There are several methods of preventing your condensate pipes from freezing:

- Increase the size of the pipes from 20mm to 32 or 40

- Fit a high grade of pipe insulation to the pipes

- As a last measure, you may want to fit trace heating to the pipes
If your condensing boiler has stopped working and the outside temperature has dropped below 0˚C then there's a chance your condensate pipe may be frozen, meaning you should call a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

Protecting your pipes from damaging winter weather will involve some expenses initially, however, the money you could save in the long run certainly makes investing in pipe protection worthwhile. Search for a quality plumber or gas engineer in your local area via the APHC website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.



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