How to keep your pipes safe during freezing weather conditions

Plumber working in tight location

Water is an unusual element, we cannot live without it, however it can be destructive at its worst. It is unusual because it expands when heated and it expands when it freezes as well, at 4°C it is at its greatest density.

This expansion during freezing leads to burst pipes which can damage a property and be hazardous to those living in it. However, if you follow these three rules for keeping your pipes safe during freezing weather conditions, you shouldn’t experience too much inconvenience when a freak snowstorm arrives.

1. Install the pipes in places they can’t be frozen

Installers need to take into consideration the position of the pipe so that potential to freeze is kept to a minimum. Pipes should be kept inside the home wherever possible, so that there is less chance of the cold weather getting to them. Pipes inside the home will benefit from the heating and insulation of the home itself.

Pipes should be kept away from walls that are poorly insulated such as single skin garage walls as the risk of freezing is extremely high. A frozen pipe is at best an inconvenience, perhaps stopping the water to one tap, however if a critical component or pipework on a heating system freezes it could cause a catastrophic failure.

Installing insulation lagging on plastic pipe

2. Lag your pipes

Pipe insulation, or more commonly known as lagging, is key to preventing any issues to do with ice as much as possible. Of course, almost anything will freeze if you submit it to cold enough temperatures, pipes are no exception. It is the installer’s job to recognise where pipes need lagging.

Most homes lack lagging around pipes, but those who do, will see the massive benefits that it can offer. Lagging keeps the heat in the pipes and is commonly used to insulate central heating pipework, as well as a pipes in loft spaces to prevent freezing – where it is a typically colder part of the home.

Make sure you use lagging that has been approved to British Standards (BSI), as they’ll have been tested using appropriate methods. Insulating your pipes is an affordable and simple solution to freezing pipe problems, which can cause inconveniences, depending on which area of the plumbing system has frozen.

open outdoor tap

3. Drain taps

Draining taps will take an average homeowner just five minutes out of their day, and it would greatly decrease the likelihood of short term frozen pipes. This is particularly relevant to an outside tap, which is exposed to the weather.

Simply use the internal shutoff valve that should have been provided to stop the mains water supply to the outside tap, and then drain this outside tap so there is no water in the pipe. Therefore, no ice can form and cause rising pressure that could lead to a burst pipe.
Frozen pipes can be inconvenient, a danger to life and danger to the home so it’s always best to stay on top off ways to prevent this situation.

No matter what type of pipes you have in the property, plastic or copper, they will freeze and burst if there is water inside them. When temperatures plummet extreme pressure is built up in pipework due to frozen water causing it to burst. Plastic pipework is able to cope with some of this extra pressure as it can expand along its length to absorb a limited amount of expansion. However nothing is truly free from the awesome pressure that freezing water can create.

Installers should work to minimise this probability with well-considered pipe layouts, appropriate insulation where needed, and advising homeowners about best practices.

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Richard Bateman

Product Marketing Manager Plumbing and Heating

About the author

A highly experienced and passionate professional, I have over 15 years' experience as a commercial and domestic plumber and hold NVQ Level 3 qualifications from City and Guilds

Since joining RWC in 2015, I began as a technical engineer, utilising my extensive knowledge to provide exceptional support. Currently, I am thrilled to be working with the marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager. 

This role allows me to combine my technical background with a keen eye for market trends, ensuring that RWC's products meet the evolving needs of the industry. With my wealth of experience and commitment to excellence, I am proud to serve as a spokesperson for RWC, sharing our innovative solutions and contributing to the growth of the plumbing and heating sector.