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If your boiler stops working during periods of snow and freezing temperatures, it’s likely that your pipes have frozen or burst. 

Woken up to find that you have no heating or hot water? Then you’re probably thinking you’ve got a broken boiler that’s going to cost an arm and a leg to fix. That’s the trouble with the winter weather. It can wreak havoc on your boiler, which usually leads to a very cold and unhappy house. To make matters worse, getting hold of a plumber or heating engineer during the winter is often impossible because they get inundated with calls from people in need of emergency boiler repairs.

But don’t panic just yet. Chances are high that you can put an end to your broken boiler misery without calling in a professional. The most common cause of a misbehaving boiler in freezing conditions is a frozen condensate pipe, which is something you should be able to sort out yourself.

What To Do If Your Condensate Pipe Is Frozen

The first thing you need to do is turn off your boiler. Next, go outside and locate your condensate pipe (should be coming out from the same wall your boiler is mounted on). When you find the pipe, take a look at the end of it to see if it is frozen. You may have insulation around the pipe, which you’ll need to remove at this point to check if it’s frozen and to complete the next step. If it is frozen, go back indoors and get some hot water to pour onto the condensate pipe. You can use a kettle or microwave to heat some water but you must NOT use boiling water to clear the icy blockage. Once the pipe has defrosted, reset your boiler and try turning on your heating or hot water.

If you can’t locate the condensate pipe or the pipe is dangerous to reach, you will need to contact a qualified and registered heating engineer.

What To Do If Your Frozen Pipe Bursts

Sadly, this isn’t a simple fix. If you have a burst pipe, you should find your stopcock and turn off the mains water supply immediately. By doing so, you’ll stop more water getting into your burst pipe. Then, turn off your boiler and turn on all your water taps and flush the toilets to drain any remaining water out of your system. If your burst pipe is located near any electrical fittings or wiring, you should switch off your electrics at the mains. You can use some PTFE tape to stop any more water leaking from your burst pipe but this is only a temporary fix. The only way to properly take care of a burst pipe is to call in a professional plumber.

Tips To Avoid Future Pipe & Boiler Problems This Winter

  • Vulnerable pipes (such as your condensate pipe) should be properly insulated, in addition to your water tanks. You can find suitable lagging material and insulation of various thicknesses at your local DIY store.
  • Make sure your boiler is serviced annually by a registered heating engineer.
  • If you are going away this winter and your home is going to be unoccupied, leave your heating on low. You can ask a friend or family member to keep an eye on your home until you return. Setting your heating on a constant low temperature is also a good idea when you’re at home.
  • You can also turn off the water at the stopcock and drain your system before going away. To drain your system, simply turn off the water and run all of your taps until no more water comes out of them. Once your taps are empty, close them up. This will help to reduce damage if you do end up with a burst pipe.
  • The moment you spot a dripping tap, get it fixed. You may not know this, but a leaking tap can actually lead to frozen pipes.

We should also point out that you must never attempt to fix a broken boiler. Not only is it dangerous and illegal for an unqualified and unregistered person to undertake any gas work but you could also invalidate your boiler warranty or boiler cover plan if you have one. If and when you do need to call in a boiler engineer or plumber to repair your boiler or burst pipe, make sure they are registered and fully qualified to carry out the work.

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