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The following tips may help you reduce the risk of a plumbing emergency and could save unnecessary expense and distress.
•Find out where your stop valve is located on the incoming water supply main and label it. Check occassionally that it is working.
•Whilst you are looking find where other service valves are located? Label them and check from time to time that they are working correctly.
•Find the location of any drain valves on the system too. These can be used in an emergency to empty your water and central heating systems (once the source of heat has been put out).
•Ensure that the storage system and exposed pipes 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’s a good idea to leave the hatch open. Heat from the house will help to keep the cistern and pipes from freezing.
•Inspect your cold water storage cistern (tank) regularly and, if it is metal, make sure it is not corroding.
•Check the condition of flexible hosepipes to plumbed-in domestic appliances at regular intervals.
•Dripping taps or continuously running overflow pipes are a sure sign that your plumbing system requires maintenance.
Don't Panic! The first thing to do is to prevent water passing the point of the leak. Turn off all stop valves (sometimes called stop cocks) which are often sited under the kitchen sink. If there isn’t an internal valve, turn off the water at the external valve which may be under a cover in your garden or path.
If the escaping 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 any electric immersion heater.
If a pipe freezes, turn off the mains water supply at the stop valve inside your home. If the frozen pipe runs from a storage cistern and is not controlled by a valve, check that it hasn’t split. If it has, empty the cold water storage cistern by opening the cold water taps and flushing the WC. If you know how to, you could siphon the water from the cistern with a hose pipe, then call a professional plumber. If the pipe isn’t split, thaw it out by applying hot water bottles.
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 as although water may be flowing from taps, other parts of the system may still be frozen.
•Don’t 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.