Water consumers: Prepare your property for winter
All pipework from the stopcock to your house is your responsibility. Many of the calls to Kilkenny County Council during the recent extreme weather periods related to private frozen pipes. Kilkenny County Council wishes to advise all of its water customers to take action now to prepare for extreme winter weather should it occur.
Remember: All pipework from the stopcock to your house is your responsibility, and spending a little time on simple frost protection now could help you avoid trouble and expense during cold weather.
Frozen pipes which burst when the thaw set in caused hundreds of thousands of Euro worth of damage to properties during recent severe weather events. Some commercial and agricultural customers also saw a large increase in bills where leaks on their property were not identified and repaired quickly. Property owners should check with their insurers about what requirements they set down in relation to extremely cold weather in order for the property to remain insured.
What you should do now?
Find your stopcock, ensure that it is properly insulated and test that it is working. This is where the water to your property can be turned off and on. Some domestic houses have a stopcock under the kitchen sink, and all properties should have a stopcock on the supply line from the council or group scheme watermain. Typically this is located just outside the property boundary wall, or on the footpath in front of the property. Various types of meter box / stopcock covers and their access keys may be available from your local hardware store. Some domestic and all commercial properties have an integrated meter and stopcock box.
The most common stopcock and meter box covers are shown below:
All of these boxes should contain a polystyrene plug under the lid to protect from frost. Please ensure that this is properly in place and if not, try to get one from your local plumbing provider. Any insulating material which does not hold water can be used to temporarily protect the stopcock & meter.
1. If your pipe froze previously, consider having your plumber replace the service pipe within your property boundary. The service should be buried at a depth greater than 600mm below ground level - the deeper it is the more insulated it will be.
2. Insulate any exposed pipework. Check around your home for areas where water supply lines are located and might be in unheated or un-insulated areas. Check the attic, crawl spaces, garages, under bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Remember attic insulation should go over your attic water storage tank, in order that heat from the house below can rise to keep the tank ice free.
3. Farm owners - should seek to locate all pipework on their property. Any above ground pipework to troughs should be shut off and drained down when not in use.
4. Holiday home owners or vacant property owners should either shut off the water supply and drain down the property water network completely or maintain a constant heating of the property to prevent freezing. Either way, you should organise to have the property checked on a daily basis during an extreme cold weather event.
All property owners should note that some heating systems require a constant top -up from the water supply and should not be operated when the property stopcock has been shut off /system drained down or the pipes have frozen.
Contact your plumber to find out what sort of heating system you have in your property and how it operates. Your local plumber should be able to give you advice on how to turn off your water supply and drain the system. To find a qualified plumber in your area use your Golden Pages business directory or contact directory enquiries.
What should be done during an extreme cold spell?
1. Keep your heating running at a constant temperature 24/7 during the cold weather event.
2. Where you think pipes in your attic might freeze, and it is safe to do so, open your attic trap door to allow warm air up into the attic space.
3. Insulate and cover any outdoor taps as these are very prone to bursting.
4. Farmers should ensure that all long services to troughs are closed off at the stopcock.
5. Vacant properties should be checked on a daily basis, and should have constant heating or have the supply turned off and drained down.
6. Do not run your taps, doing this results in water shortages for everyone.
7. Check on elderly or unwell neighbours who might need assistance in obtaining water.
What should be done if your pipes freeze?
1. If there is no water from the cold tap at your kitchen sink, it is likely that the supply pipe onto your property has frozen. Typically these freeze at the point at which the pipe enters the house (it is often shallow at this point) or at the stopcock although it may freeze at any other point which had been laid too shallow. You may be able to thaw the pipe by pouring warm water over the stopcock - never use boiling water .
2. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe in the attic or other exposed pipe by wrapping it in warm towels or using a hot water bottle. Do not use any device with a naked flame on pipes - it can cause the water in the pipe to boil and could burst explosively. Also be aware if using an electrical appliance to thaw pipes that if the pipe has burst that there could be a risk of electrocution when the pipe thaws.
3. Check with Kilkenny County Council about water supply problems in your area and tune into local radio station KCLR for further updates.
4. Once the thaw sets in or your supply is restored, make sure you check for any leaks or bursts which might have occurred.
What should be done if your pipes burst?
1. Turn off your stopcock. Open your hot and cold taps and allow all of the water to drain out.
2. Switch off your electricity supply at the mains if there is any risk of water coming in contact with electrical wiring or fittings.
3. If you live in an apartment, terraced or semi-detached house, warn your neighbours in case the burst pipe causes flooding in their property. Check with your neighbours to ensure that it is only your own water supply that you have shut off.
4. Contact your local qualified plumber to arrange to make repairs.
Water Shortages and Leaks during Severe Weather
Be Prepared - precautions against freezing temperatures
- Mains water supply to premises, i.e. external stopcock - the depth from ground-level to the stopcock should not be less than 600mm. If required, seek professional advice on having the stopcock lowered or protected. The same applies to the line from the stopcock to your property. Be aware that the level may vary as it nears your property.
- To prevent stopcocks freezing, open the stopcock chamber and remove any water. Fill the chamber with non-absorbent material to provide insulation. Do not use absorbent material as it too will freeze when wet.
- Do not leave taps running as this merely wastes a valuable resource.
- If you are leaving your property unattended for a period of more than a day or two, you should shut off the water supply to the property from the external stopcock (while ensuring that any water-dependent appliances or facilities are also shut-off).
Be Prepared - avoid Frozen Pipes
- Ensure all exposed pipes are adequately insulated. This includes pipes in the attic where the attic floor has been well insulated.
- Insulate or wrap a towel around an outside tap.
- Leave a light on in the attic.
- Open attic trap door to allow heat in.
- Leave heating on for longer periods at lower settings.
- Warmth offers the best protection against frozen pipes so keep your house warm.
Frozen mains water supply
- If your supply is frozen, be cautious with use of heating systems, washing machines or other water-dependent appliances or facilities.
- If in doubt, contact a qualified plumber for advice.
- Water supply in vacant premises and holiday homes should be shut off and drained down in preparation for winter
- Keyholders - check premises regularly for possible leaks
- If a leak is detected:
- Turn off water supply -stop valve is usually under the kitchen sink.
- Turn on cold taps to drain the system.
- Turn off central heating.
- Turn off electricity supply if leak is near electrical appliances.
- Call a qualified plumber.