A cold snap has descended upon us and the weather forecasters have promised it will not be going anywhere fast. That makes now a good time to remind landlords of the perils of frozen pipes and offer some tips on how they can be avoided.
Which pipes are most vulnerable?
In an occupied house it is pressurised external pipes that are most vulnerable. It is not necessarily the point that freezes that bursts. Rather it tends to be the section of the pipe between the blockage and the tap. Water expands when it freezes so water trapped in this section has nowhere to go other than to crack a pipe or burst a joint. Therefore a simple, although not perfect, solution is to leave an external tap marginally open thus allowing the pressure a release.
Pipe insulation could also be considered, although this will only offer limited protection. If the cold is persistent enough, insulation will only slow down the inevitable.
A longer term solution to this danger is to explore the possibility of a plumber re-routing the pipe-work internally.
Vacant property = bigger risk to landlords
If you do not have tenants in your residential or commercial property over the winter your thinking needs to extend beyond external pipes. If there is water in your pipes and the internal temperatures persistently drop below 0°C your pipes will be almost certain to rupture.
There are three possible solutions.
First, you could drain the water out of the system. Turn of the stop-cock and open all the taps until the water stops coming out. If you do this right it should be failsafe as there is no water to freeze. It is recommended that you consult a plumber when draining and refilling the system. (A half measure could be to turn off the stop-cocks without draining the system. It would not prevent a burst pipe but would reduce the impact if one occurred).
The second solution is to program the heating to warm the house once or twice a day. This may be considered an expensive option with today’s energy prices but still would likely be preferable to the potential damage a burst water pipe could cause. Some boilers have a cold weather setting that can detect this danger automatically and respond accordingly.
We don’t recommend the third solution which is to cross your fingers and hope that the weather gods are merciful!
Make sure your tenants are switched on this winter
Burst pipes are an age old problem but one that can be managed. If you do have tenants flag the issue with them so that they can help your pipes remain intact if they are going away over the festive period. If they are switched on, and their heating is too, your winter will be stress free! More information on prevention of burst pipes can be found here.
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