Extreme weather conditions
To help our tenants and leaseholders during severe weather conditions, we have put together information to help you better prepare you and your family for the winter ahead.
- If you will be away from your home overnight or even for a few days, leave the heating on its lowest setting to stop the pipes from freezing.
- Check that your water pipes in exposed or cold areas are insulated, for example outside toilets. Wrap the pipes in some insulating material or a bath towel, ensure the pipe is adequately clipped/secured to the wall before attaching insulation material.
- Know where your stop tap is situated in your property. You might need to turn it off in a hurry. That way, you can turn the water off quickly if any pipes leak or your water tank bursts. If you have to be away from your home for a few days, then turn off the stop tap.
Where is the stop tap/valve?
You will find the internal stop tap where the main water supply pipe enters the house. This is usually situated under the kitchen sink, but if it’s not located there, then it might be possible that it could be in any one of the rooms; downstairs toilet, side of the chimney breast or in the garage. If your property has a storage tank, the stop tap will be near to the tank, possibly in the airing cupboard or in the roof space.
How can I tell if pipes are frozen?
You will know if water stops flowing from a tap, it is frozen. If a pipe starts to leak, it's likely that it has frozen, burst and has begun to thaw.
What to do if pipes are frozen?
If you suspect that you have frozen, burst or leaking pipes. Try to minimise damage to your home by doing the following:
- Turn off your stop tap immediately
- If the water supply to a home is frozen and there is no cold water from the cold water tap, then there is very little that can be done other than wait for it to thaw.
- Alternatively, you may try to thaw the pipe yourself, for example by using hot water bottles. Do not use a blow lamp. Take care to thaw from one end of the frozen section and not from the middle.
- Conserve hot water until the pipes are thawed.
- If possible, drain your water system by turning on all the cold taps in the house. Collect as much water as you can in buckets, baths and containers, to use for toilet flushing. Do not use this water for drinking or cooking.
- Turn off the boiler or immersion heater and turn on all the hot taps.
- Make sure your central heating boiler is turned off and don't use solid fuel heating systems.
- If you are a council tenant and unsure about a repair, contact our Repairs Service on 0116 454 1007.
Boilers in extreme weather conditions
In the case of extreme cold weather conditions, your boiler condensate pipes could freeze, which can prevent the boiler from functioning properly.
A condensate drainage pipe is a plastic pipe (typically white or grey in colour) and is located at the bottom of your boiler and runs through to the wall outside where it will usually change into a larger black or white pipe. If you condensate pipe goes to the outside of your property then you should have a device called a ‘boiler buoy’ fitted, this is white and has a clear plastic pipe attached to it.
How do I know if the condensate pipe is frozen?
Your boiler may start to make some unusual noises and sounds, which normally you wouldn't hear. Your boiler could shut-down due to freezing and blockage of the condensate drainage pipe. This is usually indicated by a fault code on the boiler’s digital display, although this may not specifically indicate freezing as the fault. Indication may also be given by some other alarm, such as a flashing light, or by a symptom such as “gurgling” noises coming from the boiler.
If the boiler is making these noises, please watch the video linked to above and follow the steps to try clear the blockage in the condensate pipe if you are comfortable to do so.
In addition, if you have a ‘boiler buoy’ fitted under your central heating boiler then this will indicate whether your condensate pipe is blocked due to the red ball floating at the top of the ‘boiler buoy’.
How do I clear the blockage in the condensate pipe?
It’s recommended that you call our qualified gas engineer to come look at the condensate pipe, especially if you’re unsure of what to do or how to locate the frozen section of the pipe. Please be cautious at all times when attempting to identify and thaw the condensate pipe.
If you have a ‘boiler buoy’ device fitted then you can attach the hose to the discharge pipe and place the other end into a bucket, then open up the valve to drain the water, this will clear the blockage and allow for your boiler to start working again. Once the weather has warmed up a little you should close the valve and remove the discharge pipe. You should monitor the bucket regularly and empty it daily. There should be a visual instruction sheet located in the vicinity of your boiler. If you are unsure or if this does not remedy the issue then please call for one of our qualified gas engineers to visit your property.
Pump House Group have provided a guidance video which you can watch on YouTube explaining how to use the ‘boiler buoy’ should the pipe become frozen. Any attempts to follow the instructions on the guidance video should be carried out with care and caution and strictly at your own risk.
If you feel confident enough to attempt the task, then there are two ways of thawing the pipe yourself. Please do not attempt to thaw a condensate drain pipe if you cannot easily reach it from the ground level. Be aware that any water used can quickly freeze if it falls onto a pathway, causing a possible slip hazard.
Another method to thaw the pipe is to apply hot water from a suitable container (but not boiling hot water) like a watering can, to the outside of the pipe itself.
Worcester Group have a guidance video which you can watch on YouTube, explaining how to try unfreeze the condensate pipe should it become frozen. Any attempts to follow the instructions on the guidance video should be carried out with care and caution and strictly at your own risk.
Council tenants can ring 0116 254 9439 for emergency repairs.
Finally, you can use either a hot water bottle or a heat wrap (ones that are applied to aid muscle discomfort and can be purchased from your local pharmacy). Place it around the pipe at the section where the water has frozen.
Resetting/re-start the boiler
Once the blockage has been thawed and cleared, refer to the boiler operating instructions or check the manufacturer’s website for guidance on any action needed to reset the fault code/alarm and restart the boiler. In most cases, once the condensate drain pipe is cleared and a reset has been carried out, the boiler will re-ignite using an automatic operating sequence.
If you are a council tenant and the reset/restart does not work, please report it to us using the Housing Online quick link at the top of this page.
Beware of flooding
Flooding can cause damage not only to your property, but also to your personal belongings. Check that your contents insurance policy covers flood damage. More general information can be found on our flooding section.
If you experience a power cut due to winter weather, check the UK Power Networks website instantly. This site gives you updates on the current situation. If the power cut affects more than just your home, get in touch with your utility provider directly.
Need further help or guidance?
You can also refer to our Repairs handbook (PDF) for further help or guidance.