18 January 2022
By Tom Collins
Irish Water and Local Authorities are asking homes and businesses to take some simple steps to avoid damage to their pipes and help conserve water during the cold weather.
Freezing conditions can lead to a higher than normal volume of burst pipes. A burst pipe can cause severe damage in the home, while also leading to valuable water being lost. Sometimes a small leak can go undetected for weeks, resulting in expensive repair bills and a disrupted water supply
To avoid this, we are asking home- and business-owners to take some simple steps to winter-proof their premises over the coming months.
Speaking about preparing for colder weather, Tom Cuddy, Head of Operations, Irish Water, said, “With temperatures often dipping below zero at this time of year, we are appealing to homes, businesses and those responsible for unoccupied buildings to check for leaks whilst adhering to current public health regulations and advice, and to turn off water where it’s not needed. We are also appealing to customers to check outside pipes in particular that can become frozen and burst during periods of cold weather and report leaks they see on the public network to us.
“Small efforts by everyone to conserve water wherever possible make a big difference and we would ask the public to only use what they need whilst continuing to adhere to public health advice on hand washing and hygiene regarding COVID-19. Simple advice on conservation includes for example taking showers over baths and fixing dripping taps where it is possible to do so.
“In preparing for freezing weather, there are some simple steps to follow to avoid your pipes freezing or bursting. These can be viewed online at https://www.water.ie/help/
What to do if you have a frozen pipe: If you have a basic knowledge of plumbing, these tips will help you locate and thaw a frozen pipe. If you are unsure of what to do, call a registered plumber.
Turn off the water supply, this will limit the amount of leakage or damage if a pipe bursts:
• Find and turn off your inside stop valve, usually located under the kitchen sink
• Turn off the stopcock in your cold water tank, usually located in the attic
Locate the pipe
• Check the water pressure in appliances such as taps and toilets to see if it is lower than usual
• Locate the general area where you think there may be a frozen pipe
• Check for visible pipes that are not insulated, pipes that feel much colder than others, have nearby draughts or damage
• Turn on nearby cold taps to relieve pressure on the frozen pipe. NEVER turn on the hot taps
Thaw the pipe
• If the pipe and fittings are not cracked or broken, you can try gently thawing the pipe
• Protect or move anything which might be damaged if the pipe bursts when thawed
• Use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to gently warm the pipe, starting at the end nearest the tap
NEVER attempt to thaw out frozen pipes by switching on your immersion, central heating, blow torch etc.
What to do if you have a burst pipe:
A burst pipe can cause serious damage to your home so it is important to take action as soon as possible.
Limit the damage
• Turn off the water supply as instructed above
• Drain the system by turning on all the cold water taps and flushing the toilets
• Switch off the central heating and immersion. If you use solid fuel, let it die out
• When the water heating is completely off, turn on the hot taps to further drain the system
• If water from a burst pipe is leaking near any sockets, switches or appliances, switch off the mains if it is safe to do so. If the switch is wet, do not touch it, instead call a qualified electrician
• If you have a shared water supply e.g. if you live in an apartment complex, ensure you have access to the stop cock. This is usually located where the water supply enters the building
• Check with your neighbours that turning off the water has not affected their supply
Get it repaired
• You can make a temporary repair to a burst pipe by binding it tightly with a cloth or tape.
• Replace this as soon as possible by a permanent repair, carried out by a qualified and registered plumber.
• Ensure your hot water system is refilled BEFORE you switch back on your immersion or boiler.
“Visit our Winter Proofing for Home page for tips. Irish Water continues to work at this time, with our Local Authority partners, contractors and others to safeguard the health and well-being of both staff and the public and to ensure the continuity of critical drinking water and wastewater services and would like to remind the public to continue to follow public health advice on hand-washing and hygiene during the global health pandemic.”