Hot Water System, Water Tank and Water Pipe Problems

Emptying the System:

If the house is to be left empty during a holiday, in cold weather, the only way to be really safe from bursts is to empty the tank. This is done by turning off the supply of water from the consumer’s stopcock, then turn on the taps and let them run dry. Before doing this, take the precaution of turning off all electricity and gas water heaters and making sure that all boiler fires are out.

On your return it is important to refill the tank and pipes without airlocks developing. To do this, turn all taps on, then turn on the supply at the consumer’s stopcock. Wait until the water flows quite freely from the lowest tap (not the main drinking tap) in the house. When the lowest tap flows quite freely, turn it off, go to the next highest tap and turn it off, and so on until you reach the highest tap. Do not light the boiler fire or turn on gas or electric heaters until you are sure the water system is fully charged with water right through the house.

Thawing a Frozen Tank:

If, even after taking precautions against frost, you find you are landed with a frozen tank, it can usually be thawed easily by pouring boiling water into the tank. This will melt the ice so that the ballcock should move freely; if the ballcock is frozen solid, wring out some cloths in very hot water and wrap round the valve until it is freed; never be tempted to apply any form of heat from a flame to the ballcock valve as this may damage it beyond repair.

Thawing Frozen Pipes:

The best method of thawing pipes is to apply cloths wrung out in very hot water round the parts which are frozen. If water runs from some pipes and not from others, it is quite a simple matter to find out which length of pipe is frozen. If all the taps are dry, first apply the cloths to the parts which are in particularly cold spots in the house. If this fails to get the water flowing again, apply cloths all along the pipes, commencing at a tap and working toward the supply.

Frozen waste pipes should be treated in the same way. Never pour boiling water into a porcelain basin or sink in an effort to thaw a waste pipe. The boiling water is almost sure to crack the cold porcelain, and will probably fail to melt the ice in the drain side of the pipe.

First Aid for Burst Pipes:

When water in a metal pipe freezes it expands with splitting force to crack the pipe. While the water remains frozen the burst is not apparent; as soon as the water thaws — by the application of hot cloths, or by a rise in temperature — the water is forced through the split. If this happens prompt action is necessary to prevent damage to walls, floors and ceilings. First, place a bucket or bath in position to catch the leaking water; turn the water off at the main — either at the consumer’s outside stopcock, or at the stopcock inside the house. If the leak is in the main supply pipe, closing the main stopcock will cut off the supply of water.

If the burst pipe is one that is fed from the storage tank it will be necessary to stop the supply from the tank by turning off the stopcock which is located in the main outlet pipe from the storage tank. If this cock is not included in your system the outflow of water should be cut by plugging the outlet pipe inside the storage tank, at the base of one of the sides. A shaped wooden peg is the best plug for this outlet; in an emergency a cloth tightly screwed may be pushed into the end of the pipe. This is rather a messy job, but stopping the flow from the tank will cut the water supply to the burst pipe, thus saving a considerable amount of trouble and possible damage to walls, floors and furniture.

If the burst should be in a hot-water pipe, the consumer’s stopcock should be closed, also the stopcock controlling the outflow from the storage tank. The boiler fire should be raked out — or gas or electric water heater turned off. The hot-water taps fed from the cylinder should be opened. Having stopped the flow of water the burst pipe must be renewed. This is a job for a plumber, not for the handyman.

You may assume that a burst pipe in your house is not a single local occurrence, and that at this time the plumbers will be exceptionally busy. It may be several days before the pipe can be renewed, but it is possible for the handyman to carry out a simple form of first aid so that the water system can function until the main repair can be carried out. You will need two hammers for the temporary repair, or a hammer and some solid object to act as an anvil.

temporary repair of burst pipe

The shape of a burst pipe is shown in Image 1 (a) (right). To carry out the temporary repair, place one hammer or the anvil object at one side of the pipe on a level with the burst, hammer the other side of the burst pipe, Image 1 (b), using a good amount of force. Reverse the positions of anvil and hammer, and again hammer the pipe to close the lips of the split. Continue until the lips are as fully closed as hammering at the sides can force them, then hammer the front of the bulge, Image 1 (c). To finish the job, wrap adhesive cellophane tape tightly round the pipe over the repair and for a distance of about two inches each side of the burst; follow this operation by winding insulating tape over the first binding. The water may then be turned on at half pressure, but the water heater should not be relit until the pipe has been replaced.

There is an alternative method of temporarily repairing a burst pipe, see Image 1 (d). A section of the pipe at the burst should be removed by cutting through the pipe with a hacksaw; a short length of hosepipe should be fitted to overlap the cut ends of the pipe and the hose bound tightly round at both ends with wire. With both types of first-aid repair, water should only be turned on at half pressure until the burst pipe can be renewed. A burst pipe should rarely happen if sensible anti-frost precautions are taken.

03. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Home Inspections, Home Maintenance, Mains Services, Water | Tags: , | Comments Off on Hot Water System, Water Tank and Water Pipe Problems


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