UK Government

Consumer Council for Water: Avoid getting soaked by the cold snap

Press Release   •   Jan 15, 2010 11:05 GMT

Colder weather can wreak havoc on water pipes, and the Consumer Council for Water is urging homeowners to check for signs of leaks as the temperature begins to rise.

Water expands as it gets colder, and if it freezes it can put enough pressure on household pipes to burst them at the seams. Only as the weather warms up, does the damage become clear because the water starts to flow again.

Taking a couple of minutes to do a simple check for leaks around your home can save time and money. The earlier a leak is caught, the less damage it’s able to do.

If you have a water meter, the easiest way to check for a leak is to turn off appliances, such as the washing machine or dishwasher and make sure that no water is being used, and then check the meter. If it is registering water usage, you may have a leak.

If you don’t have a water meter, there are still a few telltale signs of a leak, including hearing water running or dripping when the water is turned off, finding a wet spot on the carpet or the ceiling, or a particularly soggy patch in the garden. In extreme cases, you may even notice a loss of water pressure.

The homeowner is usually responsible for repairing any leaks on the supply pipe running to their property under their garden and for the plumbing inside the house. Check your building insurance policy to see if it includes damage to pipes and drains.

If you suspect a leak on your supply pipe contact your water company. Most water companies will offer to help find the leak, and offer advice or assistance to repair it.

Household customers who have a water meter are eligible for a reduction in their water bill so that they do not pay for water lost through leakage. However, the leak must be underground and repaired quickly.

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Having to deal with a leak on your property and costly repair bills can be very stressful for consumers. Being aware of the signs and catching a leak early can help prevent a nuisance from becoming a major problem.”

The Consumer Council for Water’s top tips to avoid getting soaked

  • Make sure you know where your inside stop valve is and check that it is working. It is usually under the kitchen sink. You will need to get to it quickly if a pipe bursts.
  • Ensure pipes in cold draughty areas are insulated. Check that the insulation in your loft is thick enough, and that it covers over and around the water pipes where possible. Do not put insulation underneath the water tank.
  • Wrap bends or hard-to-get-at pipes with securely fixed strips of insulation.
  • On very cold days, open the hatch to your loft to let warm air in from other parts of the house and prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Insulate outside taps or turn them off at the stop tap, or drain them before the frosty weather.
  • Fix any dripping taps or overflows. A build-up of ice can cause a blockage.
  • If you leave your home for a few days, have your heating set so that it comes on at least once every day.

What to do if you suspect that your pipes are frozen:

  • Check all visible pipes for damage or evidence of freezing.
  • Before you start to thaw the system, ensure that your taps are open, to help reduce pressure on the pipes.
  • Turn water off at the inside stop valve and thaw pipes slowly using a hot water bottle or cloth soaked in hot water.
  • Expect the process to take several hours, and never use a blow torch. You could use a hair drier on a low heat setting, but warming up the pipe too fast could cause damage, especially on more modern plastic pipes.

Ends

Notes for editors

1.    The Consumer Council for Water was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales.

2.    The Consumer Council for Water costs each water customer less than 25p per year.

3.    The Consumer Council for Water has gained £135 million from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments.

4.    The Consumer Council for Water has to date taken up over 60,000 consumer complaints about water and sewerage companies, and secured £6 million in compensation and rebates for customers.

5.    The Consumer Council for Water is a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government. It has a committee for Wales, and four regional committees in England.

6.    Our website is www.ccwater.org.uk.

For public enquiries to the Consumer Council for Water, please contact via email on enquiries@ccwater.org.uk, via phone on 0845 039 2837, or via minicom on 0121 345 1044.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk