To reduce the risk of pipes freezing or bursting in the first place, follow these 3 steps:
- Leave the central heating on (it should be set at between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius) for at least an hour each day, preferably in the morning.
- Ensure that pipes are insulated and lagged where they are exposed to low temperatures, taking care to ensure cold water tanks and pipes in the loft and crawl spaces are covered.
- If there is an outside tap attached to your home or business premises turn off the water supply, the same goes for internal water supplies if you are away for an extended period of time.
If the worst happens, there are things that you can do to lessen the damage that can be caused by these types of problems:
Whether the pipe is frozen or burst, turn off the water supply at the mains using the stop cock. It is best to make sure you know where this is before a leak actually happens. Once the water is turned off and any excess water has run off through the taps, you can then safely check for further damage paying particular attention to the pipe joints.
If there has been an actual leak, it is best to turn the electric off because water that has spread through walls and ceilings may have damaged the electrics and caused a further potential hazard.
It is a common mistake to run the hot water through the system to melt any ice in the pipes, but this can actually make the problem worse. You should use an external heat source to gently melt the ice in the pipe. Due to the obvious hazard, a naked flame should be avoided, although a hair dryer might do the trick.
Something that is often forgotten with the stress of dealing with this type of problem, is the need to check with your neighbors to make sure that they have not suffered any damage that can be a risk to their safety and then they can also check whether their pipes have been affected by the same issue.