Winter is here – Why, where, and how to protect pipework

A tap which has frozen over in the winter weather.

Now that the winter months are upon us, it’s crucial that pipework is properly protected during the cold months to help people avoid unwanted maintenance and stress.

And to that point, we’ve put together some useful tips on why, where, and how to protect pipework, so homeowners can be sure their home stays warm as temperatures drop.

Why Does Pipework Need to Be Insulated?

There are several reasons to protect pipework, but the most important for those colder months is to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. A frozen pipe can cause all sorts of issues for the homeowner, often leading to significant water leaks that flood the living space. Pipework is even more at risk when stagnant water is left sitting unused within the system, which is often the case for pipes leading to outdoor appliances, such as outdoor taps.

However, protecting pipework with insulation also provides a host of other benefits alongside leak prevention. For example, pipes can withhold heat for longer, meaning the end-user saves significant amounts on energy each month. As a result, this also lowers their water consumption, with less time required running the tap waiting for hot water.

Equally, insulation can prevent water from getting too warm during the summer months, but with the UK’s temperamental weather, this can be a rare occurrence for UK homeowners!

Where Should Pipework be Insulated?

Pipework insulation is necessary for any cold areas that might suffer from freezing in colder periods. Naturally, outside pipework is especially at risk, with cold temperatures often causing severe leaks. While lagging pipework outside, installers should also consider fitting an outdoor tap cover to help protect from the cold weather.

However, it’s not just outdoor spaces that need to be considered – loft spaces are equally as important, with the insulation in the loft preventing the home’s warmer temperature from reaching the loft space. Consequently, loft spaces can often get cold enough to freeze pipework that hasn’t been effectively insulated. Installers should lag any pipework in loft space, particularly underneath the loft’s insulation.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier in this blog, any pipework that channels hot water should also be insulated where possible to help save on energy and water consumption. This includes:

  • Pipework in airing cupboards
  • Hot water pipes under sinks
  • Any central heating pipes from the boiler
Applying insulation to copper water pipes in a roof space

How To Protect Pipework?

Luckily, for most installers, insulating exposed pipework is an easy job that requires very little time.

To begin, first make sure that if you’re lagging hot water pipes, the central heating has been turned off and the pipes have been given enough time to cool. Once cooled, measure the exposed pipework’s diameter and total length, to help gauge how much pipework insulation will be required.

Once measured, choose the appropriate insulation for the job. The most common type of insulation is a foam tube, which is easy to install and cut to size if required. Foam tubes can come in a variety of sizes depending on their application but mainly range from 15, 22 and 28 millimetres, covering most domestic applications.

From this point, lagging the pipework is a straightforward task. Simply open the foam tube along the pre-marked split and slide onto the pipework, sealing the insulation with pieces of tape.

If there are bends within the pipework, place the piece of foam in a mitre box and make a 45-degree cut with a tenon saw. Once the two pieces line up, cover with tape to seal off the bend.

A common problem when installing foam insulation is ensuring obstructions, such as tee joints or stopcocks, are properly covered. To do this, cut the foam tube in half just before the obstruction and make a horizontal cut on one of the foam tubes so it can properly wrap around the joint. Once properly covering the object, wrap with tape to hold the pieces together.

It’s also worth noting when insulating something such as a stopcock or tap, try to ensure the tap itself is insulated with a small piece of foam tubing so that it’s accessible to plumbers while still protected from the elements!

RWC Ready to Serve Installers

At RWC, our Reliance ValvesSharkBite and JG Speedfit ranges of pipe, valves and fittings are perfectly suited to use alongside any insulation job. Quick to assemble and easy to work within tight spaces, RWC’s products make pipe installations a simple task, leaving more time to effectively insulate the completed pipework.

RWC’s solutions come with innovative features, all designed to help make the lives of installers as easy as possible. And our technical teams are always at hand to provide support and advice. Follow this link to get in touch.

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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.