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Don’t panic!

Weather forecasters are promising that temperatures will plummet, with some parts of the country seeing the arrival of snow tonight. Those lucky enough to escape the freezing temperatures only have a couple of day’s grace, with the rest of the country promised 5-10cm of snow for the weekend.

While children everywhere (and a few young at heart adults) will be smiling with glee at the thought of snowball fights and sledges, it’s not all fun and games where it comes to plumbing systems. If you are faced with a frozen or burst pipe do you know what to do?  The CIPHE is here to help with this short guide to plumbing emergencies.

Frozen pipes:
Frozen pipes cause problems on two levels. Firstly, if your pipe is frozen you cannot access water. Secondly, frozen pipes can cause considerable damage to your plumbing systems; when the ice thaws you may find you have sprung a leak or two where the ice has expanded in the pipe.

To avoid frozen and burst pipes in the first place, make sure that all exposed pipework in lofts, non-headed areas such as garages and outdoors (for outside taps, etc.) is well insulated.

If the worst happens and a pipe freezes, this is what to do:

1) Turn off the mains water supply at the stop valve (stop cock) inside your home. The stop valve is often sited under the kitchen sink. If there isn’t an internal valve, turn off the water at the external valve which may be under a cover in your garden or path.

2) If the frozen pipe runs from a storage cistern and is not controlled by a valve, check that the cistern hasn’t split. If it has, empty the cold water storage cistern by opening the cold water taps and flushing the WC. If you know how to, you could siphon the water from the cistern with a hose pipe, then call a professional plumber.

3) If the pipe isn’t split, thaw it out by applying hot water bottles.

4) If any part of the heating and hot water system is frozen, there could be a risk of explosion if the boiler (or other heat source) is kept alight, so ensure it is turned off, or for solid fuel systems, extinguish the fire.

5) Be careful as although water may be flowing from taps, other parts of the system may still be frozen.

6) Don’t try to thaw it too quickly as there may be splits in the pipe which are not immediately noticeable.

7) Never use a naked flame to thaw a pipe.

8) Always start thawing a pipe at the end nearest the tap.