Make sure your water pipes are wrapped up as temperatures plummet

20 January 2015

With freezing temperatures taking an icy grip of the country, households are being urged by the Consumer Council for Water to act now to avoid the risk of a burst water pipe.

Cold snaps, like the one currently sweeping the UK, increase the risk of water pipes becoming frozen with potentially costly and disruptive consequences.

According to CCWater research fewer than half of us have taken steps to wrap up our pipes, which is why the water watchdog is calling on households to act now by lagging the pipework in their home.

Dame Yve Buckland, chair of CCWater, said: “Not only do we need to wrap up warm in our winter woollies – our water pipes need protecting from the cold too.

“Leaving pipes exposed to freezing weather can have miserable consequences so don’t take the risk. Lagging your pipes will give you peace of mind throughout the winter.”

CCWater research in 2013 revealed only 46 per cent of water customers took steps to avoid frozen pipes – down from 55 per cent in 2012.1

Young people aged 24 to 35 are most at risk of not being properly prepared, while one in five water customers have no idea what to do if a pipe freezes in their home.2

Problems with pipes in our own homes are our responsibility so it’s worth taking time to check they are well insulated.

Even if you live in a rented property it’s also worth investigating whether they have been lagged by the landlord, as a burst pipe could end up wrecking your possessions.

By following our simple advice you can reduce the risk of being caught cold by a burst pipe:

Act now:
# Get your pipes and water tanks insulated – visit your local DIY store or shop on line for a variety of products that can help.
# Wrap bends or hard-to-get-at pipes with securely fixed strips of insulation.
# Find your stop tap – being able to turn the water off quickly could save a lot of damage.
# Insulate outside taps or turn them off at the stop tap and drain the water from them.
# Fix any dripping taps or overflows. A build-up of ice can cause a blockage.
# Get contact details of a good plumber – if you do have a problem you will want a professional on hand as quickly as possible.
# On very cold days, open the hatch to your loft to let warm air in from other parts of the house and prevent pipes from freezing.
# If you go away for a few days, leave your heating on low and set it to come on at least once every day.

What to do if you do have a problem with a frozen pipe:
• Find your stop tap and turn it off.
• Make sure any nearby cold taps are turned on, to allow the water to escape when it thaws.
• Don′t turn hot taps on until the central heating is switched off.
• Do what you can to protect or remove anything which might be damaged if the pipe bursts when the water thaws.
• Check all visible pipes for damage or evidence of freezing.
• If you can identify which pipe is frozen apply a hot water bottle or hot wet towel.
• If you notice a leak once the water has thawed and pressure in the pipe has built up again, turn off the stop tap and call a plumber. You may want to check the WaterSafe website for a list of registered plumbers.

Many water companies’ websites also feature great advice to prepare you for winter.

Notes for editors
1 Taken from ‘Water Matters: Household customers’ views on their water and sewerage services 2013’
2 Taken from the 2012 YouGov research report - commissioned by CCWater – ‘Research into domestic customers and SMEs preparedness for winter’
The Consumer Council for Water:
• Was set up in October 2005 to represent water consumers in England and Wales
• Costs each water customer an average of 21p per year
• Gained over £1billion from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments
• Has helped more than 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about water and sewerage services
• Has to date secured over £18 million in compensation and rebates for customers
• Is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government
• Has a committee for Wales and four regional committees in England
• Website: www.ccwater.org.uk
• Follow us on Twitter - @WaterWatchdog

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