With the winter upon us, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s ‘Wrap Up Wales’ campaign is reminding customers to make sure that the water pipes in their homes are protected to avoid the disruption and expense that can be caused by frozen pipes.

The campaign is urging people to take a moment to protect their pipes from bursting and causing damage that could cost thousands of pounds.

The problem is usually linked to pipes that are exposed to very low temperatures, such as those in garages and outhouses. These pipes expand when it freezes, which can lead to a burst when the pipes thaw. Urgent and expensive repair is then needed to fix the problem.

Recent research by the independent watchdog Consumer Council for Water found that about half of households in Wales haven’t taken steps to avoid frozen pipes. It found that people aged 24 to 35 are most at risk of not being properly prepared. While a fifth of us have no idea what to do if a pipe freezes in our home.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), severe cold weather experienced during the winter of 2010 saw around 3,500 calls a day being made to insurers to report frozen pipes at its peak. An average repair cost for damage caused by bursts pipes can be up to £7,000.

When a problem occurs on pipes in homes, it is the responsibility of the homeowner or landlord and so it’s worth taking time to check they are well insulated. The advice is also relevant to any type of property that might be left empty for a period of time over the winter.

Ian Christie, Welsh Water’s managing director of water services said: “Frozen pipes which burst can cause unnecessary inconvenience and expense however this can be easily avoided by taking a few moments to check and protect the pipes.”

 “If you’re planning to visit family or friends and your home will be empty over the winter you need to be sure that exposed water pipes are wrapped in insulation to protect them. Otherwise they could burst and you won’t know until you return.

“If you are unfortunate enough to experience frozen pipes, then make sure you don’t leave taps open and unattended.  As the pipes thaw, the water will likely start to flow which could lead to baths and sinks overflowing if you are not around. 

“Our message is help us Wrap up Wales and take action now to prevent a problem that can cause  a tremendous amount of inconvenience and expense – at the time of the year when you’d least want to face it.”

More information on how to prevent pipes freezing can be found on the company’s website www.dwrcymru.com.

How to prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Make sure you know the location of your stop tap so you can reach it quickly in an emergency (TIP: It's often under the kitchen sink).
  • Make sure any exposed pipes are wrapped or lagged.
  • Keep an eye out for frozen pipes, bursts or leaks.
  • Fix dripping taps – a gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe

What to do if pipes freeze:

  • Find your internal stop tap and turn it off.
  • Turn on nearby cold taps, to allow the water to escape when it thaws.
  • Don't turn hot taps on until the central heating is switched off.
  • Move things that might be damaged if the pipe bursts when the water thaws.
  • Apply a hot water bottle or hot wet towel to a frozen pipe.
  • If you notice a leak after thawing, turn off the internal stop tap and call a plumber.
  • If you are unsure of anything at any time call a plumber who is registered with the WaterSafe scheme at www.watersafe.org.uk

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock/Nestor Bandrivskyy