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Cold weather advice
Problems with frozen pipes
If you are experiencing difficulties with frozen pipes we recommend that:
- You turn off the stop tap.
- Put the central heating on, applying a gentle heat.
- If you have frozen waste, try pouring a kettle of warm water on the affected area.
Information on thawing a frozen boiler condensate pipe
Frozen boiler condensate pipes are a common problem during cold weather. Ideally if your condensate pipe is frozen, it should be thawed out by an engineer, but in case that’s not convenient, here are some tips on how to try to remedy the problem yourself.
What is the boiler condensate pipe?
Most modern boilers have a condensate pipe that transports water away from the boiler. To improve efficiency, the boiler removes as much energy from the flue’s gases as possible and some of this waste gas cools and turns into a small amount of acidic water. The pipe transports this steady dribble of water away from the boiler and into a drain.
To check if your boiler has a condensate pipe, look underneath the boiler where the pipes enter and exit the unit itself. If one of these pipes is plastic (usually white and about 20mm wide) and the rest are metal then you almost certainly have a condense pipe. Track the pipe to the outside of your home – you’ll find the pipe always runs to a drain which is used to get rid of the water.
Why do these pipes freeze?
Because the pipes run outside the home to reach a drainage point, during the cold winter months the acidic water is prone to freeze. If the water freezes in the pipe it creates a block and inside the boiler. A trigger shuts down the boiler when it reaches a certain point to prevent water flooding the entire boiler system.
Clearing the pipe
If possible, get an engineer to fix the problem, especially if you’re unsure of what to do or how to locate the frozen section. However, if you feel competent enough to try to thaw the pipe yourself there are two ways of doing it.
The first option is to apply hot water from a suitable container, like a watering can, to the outside of the pipe itself. Don’t use boiling water to do this. If you’re boiler is out of use because of the frozen condensate pipe you can heat the water using a kettle or a microwave.
The second option is to use either a hot water bottle or a heat wrap – the sort used to aid muscle discomfort which are available from chemists – and place it around the pipe at the section where the water has frozen.
Once thawed, the boiler must be reset. This can be done by holding in the reset button for 10 seconds and then waiting 2 to 3 minutes for the boiler to refire.
Please be extremely cautious at all times when attempting to identify and thaw the condensate pipe.
You should only attempt to thaw a condense pipe that is at ground level and which is easily accessible to you. Under no circumstances should you attempt to thaw a condense pipe which is at height, without the assistance of a professionally trained engineer.
The previously frozen pipes can often spring leaks as the ice thaws out. If this occurs there is very little you can do to repair the leak, you can however do the following:
- Turn off the water supply to your home at the stop tap and open up all taps, this will reduce the amount of water damage. It is sensible to collect some water for drinking and toilet flushing before you turn off the supply.
- Contact us and we will send out an engineer to repair the leaking pipe. We would ask for some patience with our engineers as we may have lots of leaks to attend to, we will always do our best.
Incoming cold water supply is frozen
This will result in no water supply to taps for hot or cold water and to the cistern for toilet flushing. Central heating systems are not often affected by this.
- You can attempt to thaw the water supply out by carefully using a hairdryer to gently warm the incoming supply pipe, starting from the area around the stop tap working your way along the pipe towards the first tap if the pipe work is accessible.
- If you are not able to thaw the pipe there is very little we can do until the pipe thaws naturally, please contact us if your circumstances are extreme and we will do all we can to help.
Good practice during the cold spell
- Try to keep heating turned on, not always easy due to the cost of fuel but this can stop pipes freezing up.
- Maintain a supply of drinking water in bottles, and perhaps a bucket or two of water for toilet flushing.
- Keep any temporary heating devices close to hand, you may need these in the event of your boiler breaking down.
- Keep yourself warm, wrap a quilt around you if you have to.
- Keep an eye on neighbours to check that they are ok.
Please contact Derby Homes if you have extreme problems due to the cold weather and we will do all we can to help.
Make sure you have adequate home content insurance. Derby Homes offer home contents insurance created especially for tenants and includes an affordable price, personal and quick claims service, and no extra payment towards any claim made.