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The Big Thaw: 7 ways to protect pipes from freezing and bursting

Thursday 11th February 2021 08:41

a frozen outside tap with icicles dripping down

Millions of people are being urged to protect their homes and businesses from water leaks caused by frozen pipes thawing out.

The warning comes from Thames Water – which serves 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley – as the sub-zero conditions are set to continue into the weekend, before turning milder from Sunday.

Garden taps and uninsulated internal pipework can crack when the water freezes and expands. This then leaks when the ice inside thaws, potentially leading to expensive plumbing and repair bills for the property owner.

Shops and other businesses sitting empty during lockdown are particularly at risk as the heating may have been off for several weeks.

To save money and avoid expensive repair bills, Thames Water is urging customers to:

  1. Locate the stop-tap as you may need to turn your water off quickly in an emergency.
  2. Insulate internal and external water pipes with foam tubing called lagging, particularly in the loft and garage. This is still effective even if it is already freezing.
  3. Keep the heating on low when you go out to prevent pipes freezing. If away for a while, turn off the stop-tap and drain the system to ensure there’s no water to freeze.
  4. Keep the name and number of a plumber handy and check your home insurance covers things like your pipes. If it doesn’t, consider taking out home emergency cover.
  5. Change the washers in dripping taps. These drips can freeze, while fixing a leaky tap can also save up to one litre of water a day.
  6. Bleed radiators that aren’t heating to the top, using a radiator key to open the valve and release trapped air.
  7. Ensure boilers are serviced about once a year. If a boiler breaks down it can be expensive and disruptive.

Kieran Ingram, Thames Water’s head of water networks, said: “The last thing anyone wants during a winter lockdown is a burst water pipe in their home or business.

“During the cold weather, there are a lot of small things we can all do to keep our properties warm and reduce the risk of pipes becoming stressed or even bursting.

“This is especially important for business premises which may be unoccupied during the current lockdown, meaning leaks could go unnoticed for weeks on end.

“These little changes don’t just keep the water flowing where it should be: our taps, toilets and home appliances, but can also save money on heating and energy bills.”

For more advice on how to protect your property, visit Thames Water website.