Winter Pipe Problems
The Council have been installing high efficiency condensing boilers since 2002. These are installed in a range of different properties, and in different locations. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to install the condensing discharge pipe work internally.
When the condensing discharge pipe work has to be installed externally, it can freeze in extreme cold weather conditions.
Frozen pipes from condensing boilers
During periods of very cold weather, we occasionally receive enquiries from customers whose boilers’ do not appear to be working.
Sometimes this is to do with the condensate discharge pipe freezing and preventing the boiler from operating. The following information will assist you in identifying whether you have such an issue with your boiler and what should be done about it.
How can I tell if the boiler’s condense trap/ discharge pipe has frozen?
Step 1: It’s possible that your boilers condense trap/discharge pipe has frozen if all 3 of these statements are correct:
- your boiler is a condensing boiler
- the outside temperature is or has been below freezing
- your boiler is displaying either a fault code, or simply fails to fire up
Always refer to your manufactures instructions if you have them.
Step 2: If all 3 statements above are true, you should now try to reset your boiler, providing your boiler has a reset button and you understand how to reset the boiler.
This can be done by holding in the ‘reset’ button (this can be found on the boiler control panel). Once you have released the button you should wait 2 to 3 minutes to see if the boiler re fires.
Step 3: If the boiler does not refire and it is emitting a gurgling sound, then it is almost certain that your condense pipe work is frozen. If you cannot hear a gurgling noise you should still proceed to check your condense pipe.
Step 4: The condensate pipe will be a plastic pipe (black, white or grey), coming from the bottom of your boiler. This pipe work may be installed under your floor boards. The main problem is the location of this pipe when it terminates externally into a drain, soil stack or gulley.
How can the condensate pipe be thawed?
You should contact the Council’s out of hour’s call number, who will then contact the Council’s gas servicing and maintenance contractor. The contractor will attend as quickly as possible to try and rectify the fault.
If you are unable to wait until the contractor arrives then you could do the following, however, you should exercise extreme caution at all times when attempting to identify and thaw a condensate pipe.
- You should only attempt to thaw a condense pipe that is at ground level and which is easily accessible to you. Under no circumstances should you attempt to thaw a condense pipe which is at height, without the assistance of a professionally trained engineer.
- A hot water bottle or heat wrap (like the ones that can be used to ease muscle discomfort) would be a suitable and safe way of thawing the condense pipe. Hold the hot water bottle or warmed heat wrap around the condensate pipe to thaw it.
- Once thawed, the boiler must be reset. This can be done by holding the reset button and waiting for the boiler to re fire.
Simple steps to reduce risk of burst pipes
During cold weather, inconvenience and damage as a result of burst pipes is a real possibility. Potential repairs alone can run into many thousands of pounds. However, with some simple precautions the risk can be reduced.
Prevention better than cure
Taking the following simple steps will significantly reduce the risk of burst pipes within the home.
Preventing burst and frozen pipes
The following can help prevent your pipes from freezing:
- keep the home as warm as possible even if you are out
- lag pipes in exposed or draughty places
- see that taps are turned off properly, especially last thing at night
- become familiar with your water supply system now and find the main stopcock which turns off the water supply to your property
In the event of a pipe freezing:
- put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe. When thawing, start at the end of the pipe nearest the tap and work away from it
- never use a naked flame
If a pipe bursts:
- turn off the main stopcock
- if the flow of water cannot be stopped, open all the cold taps to drain the system
- if the burst is on a pipe from the storage tank, turn off the stop valve in the storage tank, turn on all hot taps to drain the system, allow the fire to burn out or turn the heating off until the burst pipe has been attended to by a plumber
Reporting a problem
If you are a Housing tenant and need an emergency repair, you should contact the out of hours emergency contact number.