A viciously-cold weather front is set to sweep in from Siberia over the coming weekend, bringing freezing conditions and bitter winds with it.
Dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’, forecasters predict the mercury could plunge to around -5degC at night throughout the country, as snow and ice also makes their presence felt.
That means countless homeowners face the prospects of their water pipes freezing in the treacherous temperatures.
And experts say that if you don’t take precautions now, you could end up with a £7,500 repair bill if your pipes subsequently burst and cause damage to your home.
Met Office forecaster Marco Petagna warned that the cold conditions could last well into March, adding: “Temperatures will drop off through this week partly due to a cold front coming in from the north-west but also because we will start to see easterly winds develop.
“From this weekend there is the potential for very cold conditions to develop with harsh frosts and a risk of significant snowfall particularly to the east.”
In the winter of 2010/2011, similarly cold weather blitzed Britain, with temperatures plunging well below zero all over the country.
During that period, United Utilities took an astonishing 80,000 calls from customers reporting frozen and burst pipes - around 200 leaks every single day.
And according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average home insurance claim for damage caused by burst and frozen pipes is between £6,500 and £7,500.
Seve Watson, Servicing & Maintenance Manager with nationwide boiler installation firm STL Heating & Energy, reveals what you can do to protect your home:
CHECK YOUR LOFT AND GARAGE:
“Pipes will freeze where there’s no heating. So it’s vital you inspect your system before a cold snap hits - not once the damage has already been done. Your pipes need to be well insulated and lagged to stop them becoming frozen. One of the most overlooked locations is the loft. The pipes are often fitted at the height summer with no thought for the cold weather ahead. If yours aren’t lagged, at the very least you can lay some loft insulation over the top of them as protection against a freeze. Also check garages and outhouses, two other spots where pipes often freeze solid if they’re not protected.”
SET YOUR BOILER TO COME ON WHILE YOU’RE AWAY:
“If you’re going away for any period of time, make sure your boiler is set to come on a couple of times a day to take the cold away and stop pipes from freezing. It could make all the difference.”
KNOW WHERE YOUR WATER STOP TAP IS:
“Many people have no idea where their stop cock is - but finding it is often crucial in minimising damage from frozen water pipes. It’s very often in the kitchen close to the sink, or in garages in many new-build properties. What you might see when a pipe freezes is water coming through the ceiling. And homeowners obviously panic. But if you turn the stop-tap off, and then turn on the kitchen taps, you can often drain the entire system’s water into your kitchen sink - a safe point - rather than it all coming through the floor.”
“If water from a frozen and damaged pipe has leaked near or into your electrics, you must switch off the mains supply. If the mains switch is wet, you should not touch it. Instead, call an electrician immediately.”
TURN YOUR BOILER OFF IF THERE’S A BLOCKAGE:
“It’s vital you protect your boiler. If you suspect that a pipe in the heating system has frozen, do not turn your boiler on, as you could end up causing catastrophic damage.”
SPOT THE SYMPTOMS:
“When water freezes it expands, often causing damage to pipes and joints. But the good news is that not all frozen pipes suffer damage - provided you catch and thaw them early enough. First port of all is to turn off your stop tap. If you have a cold water tank, you should turn off the stopcock in your attic or loft, too. You must then open the cold water tap closest to the frozen pipe. In doing so, you will enable the water in the frozen pipe to flow away once it has melted. Then to determine which one of your pipes has frozen, run the palm of your hand along each pipe in turn. If one of your pipes has frozen, a section of the offending pipe should feel cooler to the touch than the pipes in which water is flowing freely. You may find multiple frozen areas within a single pipe. Once you have identified your frozen pipe, you should be aware that the pipe may burst at any time.”
YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOURSELF:
“When it comes to defrosting, you can either use a hairdryer - starting from the tap end - or cover the frozen section of the pipe with hot water bottles. Once you have thawed out your frozen pipe, you will need to inspect it for signs of damage. If your pipe appears to be in good condition and you are confident that you have fully thawed out the blockage, you should turn your water supply back on and run the water until you have restored a normal flow. If your pipe looks damaged, you will need to enlist the help of a plumber.”
CHECK YOUR ‘EXTERNAL CONDENSATE PIPE’:
“We get a lot of call-outs about frozen condensate pipes. Because the water only comes out with a trickle, they’re prone to freezing solid and then your boiler will simply shut down and stop working. But if you’re competent and it’s safe to do so, you can pour warm water on the outside pipe to unfreeze it and unblock the system. Be aware, though, that you may have to keep doing it every few hours because it may keep freezing during a sustained cold period. Then it’s a case of making sure the external pipe is insulated in future, before the next big freeze.”