Winter weather

Be prepared for winter

Last winter many of us enjoyed a couple of ‘snow days’ getting out and about building igloos and snowmen, but for others the cold weather was a real pain, bringing broken boilers and frosty feet.

Make sure you’re ready for anything with our guide to quick fixes, when it comes to keeping your home warm and toasty this winter. 

If these don’t work, of course please contact us to report a repair.

Keep warm inside

To stop the warmth escaping from your home, keep doors closed whenever possible. If you can feel a draught underneath them, try using draught excluders.

If you can feel the cold coming in from your windows or the side of your doors, you’ll need to seal the gap with weather sealing tape. You could even draught-proof your letter box, cat flap or keyholes. 

Closing your blinds or curtains will also help to keep the heat in.

It’s important to keep yourself warm too – so make sure you put on an extra layer of clothing and drink hot drinks to keep up your body temperature.

Avoid frozen pipes

In very cold weather, try to keep some heating on all the time.

If you are planning to go on holiday or leave your home for a long period during the winter, please make sure the heating is on for some of each day, even if it’s only for half an hour, to help stop the pipes from freezing.

Stopcock diagram

If you do have frozen pipes

First of all, turn off the stopcock. Stopcocks are usually found in your kitchen, below the sink unit. (In some houses it might be in a front or back hall or in a larder unit beside the sink.)

Then try to gently thaw the pipe using a towel soaked in warm water, or try a hot water bottle. Don’t use a flame as the high heat can damage the pipes. 

If you can’t thaw out the pipe, keep the stopcock turned off until you need water, as this will stop you being flooded if the pipes thaw suddenly and burst. 

Isolate water supply diagram

If you want to use your water heater, back boiler, immersion heater or central-heating boiler, you must turn the stopcock on every few hours to allow the tank to fill up. It’s dangerous to use these without water.

It can take a long time for pipes to thaw out but be prepared for when they do – have a bucket or bowl ready to collect any water in case the pipe bursts. You can use isolation valves (see below) to shut off the water supply to individual outlets (for example, the cistern, taps, bath or basin) while you keep a supply to the rest of your home.

If your boiler isn't working 

Before you call the contact centre, why not have a quick look to see if you can fix the boiler yourself? Most modern boilers have something called a condensate pipe which transports water away from the boiler. To improve efficiency, the boiler removes waste gas which cools and turns into a small amount of acidic water. The pipe transports this steady dribble of water away from the boiler and into a drain.

To check if your boiler does have a condensate pipe, look underneath at the pipes entering and exiting the unit itself. If one of these pipes is plastic (usually white and around 20mm wide) and the rest are copper then you almost certainly have a condensate pipe. 

Because the pipe could run outside your home to reach an existing or its own drainage point, during the cold winter months the acidic water is prone to freezing. When it freezes in the pipe it creates a block so water fills up inside the boiler. A trigger is switched to shut down the boiler when it reaches a certain point to prevent the water flooding the entire system.

To defrost your condensate pipe 

First of all, track the pipe to the outside of your home. The pipe should be insulated so it won't look white any more. You'll find it always runs to a drain or soakaway so the water can be taken away. The easiest ways to thaw out a frozen pipe are below. 

If your boiler is out of action, you will need to boil the kettle to get some hot water. Please do take care, and ensure that the water is hot rather than boiling when you apply it to the pipe, otherwise it may crack. Once you have your hot water, either

  1. Fill a hot water bottle and hold it on the frozen section of the pipe
  2. Pour the hot (not boiling) water directly onto the pipe from a watering can or jug

For more tips why not watch this video from Worcester Bosch?

Reset your boiler

Once you’ve defrosted your pipes, you’ll need to restart your boiler. Here are some instructions that should do the trick:

In the event of a fault, the blue mains indicator light will flash if there is a fault. To reset the boiler, turn the central heating temperature knob anticlockwise to the “RESET” position and hold for approximately five seconds. Then turn the knob back to the original temperature setting.

Lukewarm radiators

If the top of your radiator is cold and the bottom is warm, it’s likely you have air in the radiator, and so the water cannot rise to the top to heat it up. To ‘bleed’ your radiator you need a radiator key, available from many DIY shops or online retailers. You will also need a container and a cloth to catch any drips. 

Simply insert the key onto the grommet end and turn. It may be quite stiff. Take the key out and keep your hand on the top third of the radiator. You should be able to hear the air hissing out. Once the radiator gets warm at the top, you know the water is rising. Hold your cloth or container to the side to catch any drips and once it's run for a couple of seconds, close it back up with the key.

Watch how it’s done

Path clearance

Keeping paths clear – planning ahead

When leaves freeze they can get super slippery, especially if snow falls on top of them. Why not take a little time to clear your paths – and perhaps the paths of neighbours who might need some help – before the weather turns too nasty? It might also be a good idea to invest in a snow shovel and some grit to keep in your shed or garage if you have one. 

Although we’ll always do our best to get out and clear communal areas in times of extreme weather, if we can’t get to you, know that we really appreciate it when members of our Sovereign communities help each other out.