Plumbing Advice for Winter

One Hour Emergency Response from First Call Plumbers, EdinburghThe following is quick advice to help you get through the winter in Edinburgh and surrounding areas of Fife, The Lothians and the Borders.

Frozen Pipes
Poorly insulated pipes exposed to freezing temperatures are likely to freeze and this commonly occurs in cold, poorly insulated lofts and to exposed and/or outside pipe work and external taps.

You may not be aware of the problem until a tap is turned on and no water flows or you notice a reduced flow. You can usually thaw a pipe by applying gentle heat such as an electric hair dryer. Please avoid using too much heat such as a blow lamp or naked flame as these can cause damage to the pipe work and create further problems, so must be avoided.

Unfreezing Pipes
If you are unfreezing your pipe(s) then warm the pipe gradually, working back from the affected tap or valve. Treat old lead pipe in the same way, but warm the whole pipe evenly. If you cannot use a hairdryer, wrapping the frozen pipe in hot towels can be effective and exposed pipe work must be insulated to prevent it freezing again.

Indoor Taps
If any indoor taps have frozen then open any cupboard doors and let heat circulate to aid thawing. In extreme cases let the water trickle very slowly into the sink.

Outdoor Taps
If you have any outside taps, make sure you un-attach your garden hose before the freezing temperatures arrive, then identify where the shut-off valve on the pipe(s) are (if you have one) or where the stop cock is for the outdoor tap and close the valve or turn off the stop cock. Please note only turn off the stop cock if you are sure it is only for the outdoor tap.

Once the valve has been closed, turn on the tap so that any water remaining in the pipe has chance to drain and the pipe is left empty with nothing in it to freeze. If you don’t have a shut off valve or stop cock for an outdoor tap then we recommend one of these is fitted or you purchase and install an insulating jacket designed for outdoor taps and have an isolation valve fitted.

It is advisable that you locate your mains water stop cock, sometimes a leak will only present itself when the thaw happens. If, during the thawing process, pipe work starts to leak – turn off the mains water stop cock to reduce any further potential damage/flooding and seek professional help.

Isolating Water Supply
Isolation valves are used to regulate the flow of water to items like taps and are (normally) small brass fittings with a screwdriver slot in them that are found on the pipe work leading to the plumbing fitting or appliance such as a washing machine or dishwasher.

Although isolation valves are not a standard item in all homes they are becoming increasingly common and are very useful when you need to stop water flow to a specific plumbing item or appliance.

It is recommended that you check to see if you have any isolation valves in your home, that they are in a good condition and can be easily turned on and off should a problem arise during the winter. Common places to find isolations valves are under sinks and on the pipes running to any appliances.

If pipe work / tanks in the loft have frozen, please open the loft hatch to allow warm air to enter and thaw.

With the drop in temperature and the frosts that come with winter, it is important to keep your plumbing in order and try and avoid any costly repairs.

Best Practice

  • Lag/insulate all pipes that may be vulnerable to adverse weather conditions
  • Regularly check your stop cock(s) works

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Related posts:

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  2. What to do if a Plumbing Emergency Occurs
  3. Winter Plumbing Tips
  4. Autumn Plumbing Tips
  5. Spring Plumbing Tips