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  • Cold weather brings with it the possibility of frozen pipes and plumbing emergencies. Throughout this period it may be difficult to find a professional plumber who isn’t already inundated with work, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself.

  • Make sure you know the location of, and have labelled, the stop valve on the incoming water supply main.

  • Locate, identify and label all other stop valves, periodically checking that theyreindeer are working correctly.

  • Make sure you know the location of any drain valves by which you can empty your water and central heating systems once the source of heat has been extinguished.

  • Ensure that all exposed pipes and storage systems are properly insulated, particularly in the roof space or attic.

  • In very cold weather take special care to prevent water pipes becoming frozen. If you have a storage cistern in the roof space it will be sensible to open the hatch to allow some heat from the house to help keep the cistern from freezing.
    Frozen Tap
  • Inspect your cold water storage system (tank) regularly and, if it is metal, make sure it is not corroding. Call in your plumber if there is any sign of a problem.

  • Turn off supply to garden taps and open garden tap to drain off any water in the pipes.

  • Ensure that garden ponds containing fish are not entirely frozen over, if they are, make a hole in the ice to ensure the water remains oxygenated.

  • Check the condition of flexible hosepipes to plumbed-in domestic appliances at regular intervals.

  • Dripping taps and ball valves are a sure sign that your plumbing system requires maintenance. To avoid them becoming major problems call in your plumber without delay.

  • Have central heating boilers and other heating appliances serviced regularly.

  • The first thing to do is to prevent water passing the point of the leak - turn off your stop valve (stopcock). If water cannot be controlled immediately, open all cold water taps so that the pipework and storage system drains quickly.

  • Do not turn on hot taps. Turn off the central heating system and, if it uses a solid fuel boiler, allow the fire to die out. Switch off the electric immersion heater, then call your plumber.

  • If a a pipe freezes, turn off the mains water supply at the stop valve inside your home (if fitted) - these are often sited under the kitchen sink. If there isnít an internal valve, turn off the water at the external valve. If the frozen pipe runs from a storage cistern and is not controlled by a valve, check that it hasnít split. If it has, empty the cold water storage cistern either by opening the cold water taps and flushing the WC or by siphoning the water from the cistern with a garden hose, then call your plumber.

  • If the pipe isnít split, thaw it out by applying hot water bottles or by careful use of an electric hair dryer. Donít try to thaw it too quickly as there may be splits in the pipe which are not immediately noticeable. Never use a naked flame to thaw a pipe. Always start thawing a pipe at the end nearest the tap. If any part of the hot water system is frozen, there could be a risk of explosion if the boiler (or other heat source) is kept alight, so ensure it is turned off, or for solid fuel systems, extinguish the fire. Be careful because although water may be flowing from taps, other parts of the system may still be frozen.

    Check that your home is adequately insured and that everything that you want to be covered is covered.
    Make sure your property is in good order.
    Learn how and where to turn off your water, electricity and gas supplies.

  • Home Emergency Pack:
    Try to keep enough of the following in your house to last all of you at least two days at all times:
    Suggested list
    Lighting (torch/candles) and spare source of power (batteries etc).
    Cooking equipment (including tin-opener, utensils and cutlery).
    Drink (cans of juice, bottled water etc).
    Long life food, (check use-by date and refresh supplies regularly).
    Portable radio and spare batteries.
    Dry clothing.
    Medication (including baby items).

  • During a Cold Spell:
    Check the TV, radio and newspapers for the latest information.
    Make essential journeys only.
    If you must travel, make sure that you are fully prepared for all events and conditions.
    Obtain a weather forecast and if possible determine the road conditions for the journey you are going to take.
    Offer assistance to less able neighbours.
    Wrap up warm in several thin layers.
    Conserve energy by using one room and maintaining its temperature at 15º/20º Celsius (60º/70º Fahrenheit).
    Have at least one hot meal a day.
    Fill some clean containers with fresh water in case supply fails.

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