Avoiding Central Heating Disasters and Frozen Pipes
Efficiently heated, properly insulated homes are well protected against bursts caused by freezing. Even so, it’s worth checking for vulnerable areas before the start of each cold season.
♦ Make sure all pipes and storage tanks are insulated. But don’t insulate underneath tanks in a roof space — heat rising from below helps to protect them.
♦ Check that the existing insulation hasn’t been disturbed or displaced. Watch out for lids left off storage tanks, orwhich have been allowed to slip down.
Pipe bends and the areas around stopcocks also have a habit of ‘losing’ their insulation — refix it with lengths of twisted wire.
♦ Leave the heating on low if you leave the house during winter. For an extended absence, it’s as well to turn off the water and drain down the entire system (but not the central heating).
♦ Even in centrally heated homes, pipes against outside walls or in extensions and outhouses are particularly vulnerable to frost. Make sure these areas are kept warm.
♦ Check where the rising main enters the house. This area is often overlooked when insulating.
♦ Don’t forget to turn off the supply to an outside tap before the cold weather starts.
And the rest of the year …
♦ Beware of drilling or fixing into walls and floors where pipes may run. Look first, or check with a metal detector.
♦ Watch out for pipes around radiators, which are especially prone to accidental knocks.
♦ Treat lead pipes and their stopcocks with extra respect. Most lead pipework is at an age where the slightest movement may cause it to disintegrate.
♦ Check that your bathroom fittings and tanks all have overflow pipes connected to the drains or to outside. The previous occupants may have ‘forgotten’ to fit one, probably because it was inconvenient to arrange (though this is against the).
If you suspect your pipes have frozen, try all the taps until you’ve located the approximate location of the freeze-up. If the trouble is on the rising main, storage tank or cold feed pipe to the hot water cylinder, turn off the heating as a precaution.
You can thaw the ice plug using one of the methods shown. But first, be prepared for a leak when the ice melts.
Thawing Frozen Pipes
Hot air: If possible, play a hair dryer over the suspect area. Warm the whole pipe, so that the ice plug disperses quickly as soon as it begins to melt.
Boiling water: Alternatively, wrap cloth over the pipe and pour on boiling water. Don’t apply the water direct, or you risk doing more damage.