Paul Leach, Pipeline Solutions Manager from Northumbrian Water Group’s Total Water Solutions (TWS), says his team of engineers have seen an increase in damage to water infrastructure since the recent harsh weather conditions. Here he talks about how businesses can prepare before, during and after the cold weather to prevent significant costs and damage caused by burst pipes.
"I have no doubt that there will have been an increase in water related incidents at business properties due to the cold weather hitting the UK over the past couple of months. Waterlines, heating pipes and even sewage pipes have been freezing.
"This can happen anywhere but especially in older buildings, where there's still a lot of metallic pipe work in use, this pipe material will absorb a lot of the cold air and freeze. With traditional copper water pipes you can try to get heat onto the frozen area using a thawing machine that generates an electric current.
"A lot of newer office/commercial builds, however, use plastic pipe work for their water systems, this is a much better weapon against freezing but please remember that all plastic pipe work should be lagged as an extra layer of protection.
“Incidents will increase when the cold weather moves on, this is mainly due to pipe movement as frozen pipe work thaws, this creates leakage when pipe joints try to return to their original position before freezing but can’t, this is when pipe bursts are common place and can take businesses by surprise.
“There are a number of things that customers can do to minimise internal pipe work damage. Businesses should check the exterior of their buildings, including the flashing and siding, to make sure it's intact and in good condition. The recent snow and high winds may have caused damage that allows drafts or colder air to get inside. Keep windows closed to prevent drafts.
"Cold will freeze pipes no matter what, but it's the wind chill that will do the most damage. So on really cold days where the wind's getting through to the pipe work, that's where you could experience a major freeze-up.
“Moving water does not freeze, so for pipes prone to freezing leave a tap trickling to keep water running in the system.
“If you are leaving your building unattended, set the heating to come on for short periods every day. If the building is going to be empty for a long time, make sure the key holder makes regular visits to check inside and outside the property.
“The cold weather can cause enough disruption to business, so consider your water infrastructure and make that one less thing to worry about.”
Here are a few extra tips to help prepare business properties for challenging conditions:
- Check any trace heating is operational on any external pipework and inspect during cold spells.
- Ensure any evaporative cooling systems that are in use are circulating at a sufficient temperature not to freeze, and inspect regularly.
- Make sure that chemical storage tanks and associated pipework are adequately protected from freezing.
- If you have any unnecessary or little used processes, drain if possible.
- Have contacts and procedures in place to deal with emergency situations.
- Know where your water meter is and any sub meters so key areas can be identified and quickly shut off.
- If you can, isolate the water supplies to areas which are vulnerable to freezing.
- Repair any dripping taps or overflows
- Find out where the property’s internal stopcock is located and check that it works correctly.
- Consider installing our new AMR system (Automated Meter Reading), our system can warn customers of a burst to their premises almost immediately through our clever software alarms. This alarm can be sent to any device or computer.