Looking after your water

Water UK has produced this easy-to-use on-line booklet showing how a few simple actions can help us maintain the excellent quality and taste of tap water in the home and save money by avoiding all too common problems.

To access it click here

Preparing for winter

winter field

Frost damage to water pipes isn't just inconvenient; it may prove expensive. Prepare yourself for the winter and avoid the unnecessary waste of water and damage to your home that burst pipes can bring. Although we look after the pipework up to the boundary of your home, you are responsible for the pipework from the boundary and all of the pipework inside your house. It only takes a few simple precautions to prevent pipe bursts during winter.

The danger is greatest if:

  • The house is unoccupied and unheated – even during the day.
  • You have an outside WC, or a cistern or water pipes in roof spaces that are not lagged.
  • The bathroom or kitchen is on the north or east side of the house.

How to protect from froststop tap

Locate, identify and label all stoptaps and valves. Check regularly that they are working correctly. The main stoptap is often to be found under the kitchen sink.

Dripping taps
Repair any dripping taps. 

Check that all pipework, cisterns and tanks in unheated areas like lofts, roofs and under floor spaces, outbuildings and garages are well insulated. If they are not, insulate them with good quality waterproof foam lagging. This is usually available at your DIY store or local plumbers merchant. Insist on insulation that meets the requirements of British Standard 6700 and Water Supply Regulations.

During prolonged periods of frost, keep buildings heated. If frosty conditions persist set automatic timers to constant or 24 hours, and use your thermostat to maintain a low level of heat through the night and while you're out through the day. Ask a friend or relative to visit your home every day if you are away for an extended period. This will mean that if you do suffer a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible, and the damage caused will be minimised.

Draining down
Even the best insulation will not prevent pipes from freezing when frosty conditions persist. So, during lengthy periods of frost, external pipework, outside taps and exposed plumbing should be isolated and drained down with draining taps left open. Once the weather conditions have improved the water supply can then be restored.

If the worst happens, follow the steps listed below:

Dealing with frost damaged pipes

Remember that although damage to pipes occurs during the freezing process, the burst will only become apparent when the water in the pipe thaws. So, if freezing has occurred you should first isolate the affected area by closing the stoptap to that supply. If this can’t be closed, you should close the external boundary stoptap.

Open taps to sinks, basins, etc. to drain the plumbing system when the thaw takes place. This should reduce damage caused by water escaping from a burst pipe.

After freezing has occurred there is a risk of explosion if heat is applied suddenly. Do not switch on water heating appliances, boilers, immersion heaters, etc. until you are sure the system has thawed out.

Reheat the building using gas, solid fuel or electric heaters that are unconnected with the plumbing or central heating system. To start thawing frozen pipes, open the tap then start thawing the pipe at the end nearest the tap. Do not try to thaw pipes using a naked flame. A hairdryer can be used to direct heat on to frozen pipes, but take care, there may be a burst pipe that could spray water as is thaws.

Restoring supplies
Once you’re satisfied that the plumbing has thawed and no leakage is apparent, close the taps you have opened and slowly open the stoptap. Check the plumbing system for leakages once it’s under pressure and, only when you are satisfied all systems are thawed, switch on water heating appliances.

If a leak does become apparent, isolate the affected pipe by closing the stoptap, then call a plumber.

Remember, the pipes within your boundary are your responsibility. If you're in any doubt at all about what to do, please seek expert advice from an approved plumber.