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Preparing for Winter

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All pipework within your home or business boundary is your responsibility, and spending a little time on simple frost protection now could help you avoid trouble and expense this winter. Simple tips toprotect you and avoid frozen pipes this winter.

Insulate water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roof spaces, garages and outbuildings. This is also applicable to non domestic premises and holiday homes likely to be unoccupied and unheated for prolonged periods of time.
Insulation is essential in helping to prevent water in pipes from freezing. It is also important to ensure there are no gaps in the insulation at bends, valves or fittings.
You can calculate how much protection the various types of insulation offer by clicking here. This calculator tool will help you determine how effective insulation will be in delaying the effects of cold weather on pipes, such as freezing.
Lagging material for pipes can be purchased in DIY/Plumbing stores. It should be noted that even with lagging, extreme weather conditions can result in water in pipes freezing. Without lagging however the potential for this to happen is greatly increased.
Fix dripping taps – a small trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe.
Find your internal stop tap/valve. It is usually but not always located under your kitchen sink and normally closes by turning clockwise. You may want to test it is working.
Service your boiler regularly.
Make sure doors and windows from unheated parts of your property are kept closed and minimise any draughts from outside.
If you have tanks or pipes in the roof space, allow some warm air to circulate by opening the trap door (this should be a temporary measure ONLY, as it will cause condensation - tanks and pipes should be insulated). Leave the heating on low when you are away. Leave a key with a neighbour, friend or family member who can check the house regularly.
Write down the contact details of an Approved Contractor (qualified plumber). NI Water recommends you use a WaterSafe Approved Plumber, search for your nearest approved plumber at WaterSafe.org.uk by entering your postcode.
If a property is not in use or occupied for a prolonged period of time it is advisable to turn the water supply off at the stop tap and even consider draining down the system to lessen the possibility of burst pipes going undetected causing property damage and the waste of water.
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Dealing with frozen pipes

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Turn off the water supply at the stop tap/valve.
Thaw along the pipe, starting from the end nearest the tap.
Don’t use a blow lamp or naked flame.
Put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe or use a hair dryer at its lowest setting to thaw pipes. Be careful not to warm them too quickly.
Don’t leave taps dripping or running. The water may not flush down the plug hole if the pipes below are frozen.
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Dealing with a burst pipe

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Turn off the stop tap/valve.
Try to block escaping water with thick cloth like towels.
Turn on all taps to reduce flooding.
Call an Approved Plumber. NI Water recommends you use a WaterSafe Approved Plumber, search for your nearest approved plumber at WaterSafe.org.uk by entering your postcode or by telephoning 0333 2079030.
Don’t forget to turn off taps once the problem is fixed to avoid the waste of water.


If you have checked the pipes on your property and they are not burst or frozen, and you still have no water supply, contact NI Water on 03457 440088

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How do I protect against frozen pipes?

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Cold weather can cause water to freeze. This is a problem because when water freezes in a pipe and turns to ice it expands. As the ice expands, it increases pressure on the pipes and joints, often causing them to split or joints to pull apart.

Check all pipes inside your home and any bare pipes outside your home are lagged and protected before the cold weather comes. Your local plumbing merchants and DIY stores can help you find the right insulation.

The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme has an easy-to-use tool to work out how effective insulation will be in delaying the effects of cold weather on water pipes.

WaterSafe plumber Colin Stainer shows you how to quickly and easily insulate pipes in this video.

If you're not confident in doing it yourself, a qualified plumber will be able to help you. 

Insulating all pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roofs, garages and outbuildings.
Fitting your water tank with an insulation jacket or alternatively the top and sides of the tank can be wrapped with suitable insulation material.
(Don’t place loft insulation under the tank though as this stops heat from the rooms below helping to keep the water in the tank from freezing).
Insulate toilet cisterns, water tanks or pipes in exposed places or unheated outbuildings. Better still, if not in use, drain them for the winter.
Leaving your heating on a low setting especially if your home is empty for a while.
Checking your central heating boiler has been serviced.
Finding your stop tap - so you can turn off the water supply quickly if a pipe freezes or bursts. Most are under the kitchen sink, or sometimes in a cupboard, garage or cellar.
Turning off your water supply and draining the system if you’re going to be away for a while – a Plumber will be able to give you advice.
Giving neighbours a key for your home and contact details for someone to help in an emergency if you go away.
Repairing leaks at taps or valves as soon as you discover them.


If you have checked the pipes on your property and they are not burst or frozen, and you still have no water supply, contact NI Water on 03457 440088

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How can I locate my internal stop tap to turn off my water in an emergency?

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Your internal stop tap (also sometimes called a stop valve or stopcock) is the point where you can shut off the water supply to your home or business.

It looks like a spout-less tap or lever and sits between two lengths of pipe acting as a connector.

Make sure you are aware of the location of your internal stop tap and check it’s working regularly as you may need it in an emergency, such as a burst pipe.

In a home the inside stop tap is usually located under the kitchen sink, but can also be found in the following places:

Kitchen cupboard
Downstairs bathroom or toilet
Garage or utility room
Basement
Under the stairs

You should be able to operate the valve yourself. Turning the valve clockwise will close it, reducing or stopping altogether the amount of water passing through your pipes. It may take a few minutes for the water to stop altogether. To turn your water back on, simply turn the valve anti-clockwise. Turn it on and off slowly, never force it. If you over tighten or use excessive force you may damage the stop tap.

If your internal stop tap is not turning or shutting off, you'll need to contact a plumber to help to fix this. 

WaterSafe plumber Colin Stainer shows you how to find and turn off your stop tap in this short video.

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Warm Homes Scheme

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There is advice and assistance available to householders to help them make their homes warmer. To find out more about what grants may be available, you can speak to an energy advisor at the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512012.

The Department for Social Development’s Warm Homes scheme is available for people who receive certain benefits and own or rent their home from a private landlord.

For more information on grants available, please visit http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/northernireland or call 0300 123 1234

Related information

Protect your Property Guide
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Winter Proof Your Home
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Winter Proof Your Business
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Advice for Students
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