Very cold weather can cause many problems for plumbing and pipework in a home. Frozen pipes can cause inconvenience or damage to plumbing systems and some appliances can be very badly damaged by extreme cold weather.
When you have an un-insulated or exposed water pipe running through your home which is not heated, there is a chance that in cold weather the pipe can become so cold that the water inside can freeze. This includes pipework in your normal living areas but due to a holiday or time away from the home the central heating is switched off.
At greatest risk are pipes running through garages, lofts and roof spaces, under suspended wooden floors on the ground floor, cellars and outbuildings.
Preventing your pipes from freezing
Ensuring that pipes do not run through unheated parts of your home is the best method of preventing them from freezing; however sometimes this is not possible.
If you are away for a long period of time you should consider draining down the water from your various systems. If you are going away for a short period of time consider leaving your heating system on a timed function and set to the lowest temperature on the thermostat or ask a friendly neighbour to pop around and put the heating on once a day for an hour or so.
Ypu should not rely on insulation as the only method to prevent pipes from freezing. Pipe insulation will help to slow down freezing but will not prevent it alone. To prevent pipes freezing extra methods need to be used.
A Frost Thermostat is similar to the room thermostats that you would find on a wall in your home, but it is used to protect the boiler and central heating pipes in cold weather. By measuring and sending the temperature of the air around the boiler back to the controller, it can turn on the boiler at low temperatures to stop the boiler and the central heating pipes freezing. This will only protect a boiler and the central heating pipes and not the hot or cold water pipes.
This is an electrical cable that is attached to the pipe; the cable is then wired to a transformer and attached to the electricity 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 2.5OC to 3OC. This is effectively placing the pipe in its own mini electric blanket, warm enough not to freeze but not warm enough to heat the water above 2.5OC.
Condensing boilers can make about 1 litre of condensate water an hour. Should these pipes freeze it can cause problems for the boiler and in some circumstances severely damage the appliance. There are several methods to help prevent the condensate pipes from freezing;
- Increasing the pipe size from 20mm pipe to 32 or 40mm pipe.
- Fitting high grade pipe insulation to the pipes.
- As a last measure fitting trace heating to the pipes.
If your condensing boiler has stopped working and the outside temperature has dropped below 0oC then there is a chance that the condensate pipe has frozen. If this happens then you should telephone a Gas Safe Registered engineer to rectify the situation.