Top 5 Tips to Avoid Plumbing Emergencies this Winter

As autumn slips into winter, it’s a magical time of celebration with Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas just around the corner. This is also an important time of year for homeowners, who need to be thinking about checking the plumbing within their homes. No one wants to face the stress and turmoil of a plumbing emergency over the yuletide season, or the associated repair costs which can be crippling, so here are a few easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of a serious plumbing issue within your home:

  1. Service your boiler

Nobody wants to spend Christmas morning desperately trying to relight an ageing boiler, so it’s important to ensure it’s running smoothly. If you don’t have an annual service plan, it’s time to book a service by a Gas Safe Registered plumbing and heating engineer. Boilers last an average of 15 years, so if yours has seen better days it may be time to install a new A grade condensing boiler. This will not only provide average annual savings of up to £340, significantly reducing utility bills, but it will also reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 1,500kg, decreasing your carbon footprint.

  1. Insulate your pipes

Frozen pipes are the leading cause of emergency call outs during the winter months and can be the most costly. As the water in the pipes freezes, it will expand, leading to a blocked water supply and potentially cracking the pipe. A burst pipe won’t be noticed until you see a bulge in the plasterwork – or at worst suddenly find torrents of up to 400 litres of water cascading on everything below. This, in turn, causes substantial structural damage as well as potentially crippling your homes’ electrical supply. In order to minimise the risk of such an emergency, make sure you have insulation – known as lagging – around your water pipes. The costs involved are minimal – it can cost as little as £20 to lag the pipes in the average home with split foam and is something you can easily do yourself, in easy to reach places. Not only will this help avoid a plumbing disaster over the winter months but, according to the Energy Saving Trust, it will also reduce the heating bill by approximately £10 per year, paying for itself within the first 2 years.

  1. Check your radiators

Over the summer months, you won’t notice a broken radiator, but as soon as you turn on a cold radiator any problems will immediately become apparent. If the radiator is cold at the top and warm at the bottom, it will need bleeding, which involves opening a valve to release trapped air bubbles. Water can then flow through freely, heating the entire radiator. If this doesn’t work, there may be a build-up of sludge – a combination of rust and dirt – which will need to be cleaned out by a plumber. This is known as a ‘power flush’ and will cost upwards of £250, but has the benefit of cleaning out your whole central heating system, rather than just the one radiator. Now is also the time of year to double check any electric radiators, if you have these as a backup for an aging central heating system.

  1. Unblock your drains

The most common cause of frozen drains isn’t actually water freezing, but trapped fat and grease. It’s therefore a good idea to regularly use drain-unblocker throughout the year and use covers to collect food material that would otherwise fall down and block any drains. So if you haven’t cleaned your drains for a while, now’s the time to do it.

  1. Check your roof and gutters

Water can easily enter your home if you have broken or missing roof tiles, leading to penetrating damp, so visually inspect your home before winter sets in. Given that a quarter of the heat from homes is lost through the roof, check your roof insulation and ensure it’s in good condition and up to current standards. Broken or blocked gutters can cause drenching of external walls, leading to structural damage, so clean out your gutters. Replace any broken sections and ensure downpipes, in particular, are clear of debris.

By following these easy steps, you can minimise the risk of a plumbing emergency over the winter months. You’ll not only be saving yourself from costly repairs but also the associated stress, turmoil and upheaval, allowing you to relax and enjoy the festive season.

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