As the country braces for a cold winter spell this week, households will do their best to keep their plumbing in good order and prevent burst pipes.
Low temperatures can cause parts of your home plumbing to rupture, leaving you with no running water and potentially a hefty repair bill.
With a winter weather guide from Met Éireann covering the whole country and the ability to forecast snow, here are some top tips on how to keep your pipes from freezing this winter and how to thaw them if they’re already frozen.
Plumbing expert Sean Richardson of Sean Richardson Services in Cork said burst pipe repairs across the region can cost between €500 and €2,000 depending on the damage.
“We all know that when water freezes it expands a lot and then that pressure can cause your pipe to burst. Therefore, it is advisable to take all possible precautionary measures,” he said.
Mr Richardson said the smallest trickle could sometimes be enough to stop a “devastating” freeze.
“If you expect frost, turn on your taps and let just a trickle come down the pipes. We’re not saying you should do this with all faucets in the house, only those that are served through exposed pipes,” he said.
“The constant movement of water through the pipes prevents freezing and also relieves any possible pressure build-up that could rupture a pipe.”
Insulate your pipes
Mr Richardson advised people to focus on the most vulnerable sections of their plumbing – the outside pipes and the pipes in the unheated areas of your home like the attic.
“A meter of pipe insulation can cost as much as €2, so it’s really a no-brainer, you could have all your pipes insulated for less than €100,” he said.
“If it’s getting cold and you haven’t had time to properly insulate your pipes, you can do it yourself. About 50 to 60 years ago, the pipes were wrapped in old, crumpled newspaper and simply fastened with adhesive tape. It might sound weird, but in a pinch it definitely does the job.”
keep the heat on
Mr Richardson conceded that with energy prices rising, this might not seem like the “most attractive option”, “but a small increase in your heating bill will still cost far less than repairing a burst pipe”.
“When temperatures drop, we tend to turn up the heat during the day and turn it down at night – that doesn’t help your internal installation. Try to keep your heating at a more constant temperature over a 24 hour period as this will keep the pipes from freezing, ideally you should always have at least 12 degrees Celsius,” he said.
Keep your closets and doors open
“In most homes, your plumbing is hidden behind some sort of closet door in the kitchen or bathroom. During a cold snap, you should open those doors to allow the warm air from inside the house to flow around the pipes and keep them unclogged,” he said.
fill in the gaps
“Especially around this time of year, you should check your doors and windows for holes and large gaps that allow all of the warm air in your home to escape and let cold air in,” Richardson said.
“Window sills, in particular, are a common leak point when you’ve run cable externally to inspect internally where it enters the home for gaps. By sealing these gaps, you contribute to your overall home insulation, which in turn benefits the plumbing.”
Mr Richardson said if pipes are already frozen but haven’t burst you should turn off the water at the main.
“This is usually either under the sink or somewhere near your water meter. If you allow the water to keep flowing, you could make the situation worse and allow pressure to build up, which would cause disruption,” he said.
“If the water comes out of a faucet very slowly or stops altogether, you have frozen. If the issue is only with one tap, then it is more of a local issue than a system-wide issue.”
“You can use a hair dryer to slowly thaw the pipe by heating up and down the affected length of pipe.
“Wrap a warm towel around the frozen pipe, this should unclog the pipe and not shake the pipe too much. Place a bucket or other towels on the floor to catch the excess. A hot water bottle would also work in this situation.”
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