How do I protect my pipes against the coming cold?
This is the time of year when we should start to think about our piping, implementing ways to protect them from the potentially harsh winter to come.
How can I insulate my pipes against the cold?
Pipe insulation is available in several different sizes and degrees of efficiency and can be obtained from most hardware shops or online. The insulation is sold by pipe size, measured in millimetre increments. You may need different thicknesses of insulation, this will be determined by whether the pipe is interior or exterior.
What happens if my pipes become frozen?
Frozen pipes can be a big problem as the weather gets colder, but unfortunately it’s not something that can be fixed instantly. A plumber will advise you to cover the pipe with an insulator like a towel or specific foam made to insulate pipes, and allow it to thaw naturally. However, if upon thawing the pipework has any cracks or splits, then call a plumber immediately to repair or replace the damaged pipework.
For cracked, leaking pipes and any other plumbing problems or further plumbing advice, please follow one of the links below:
What type of pipes are used in my house?
Pipes are used around the house for all kinds of things, although piping primarily seems concerned with supplying or expelling water, though you may also have pipes that supply gas to your property. I thought it might be useful to know the different types of pipe a person might find in their property, how to recognise them and in what capacity they are commonly used.
What are the most commonly used piping material?
Copper: Copper pipe is known to be impervious to most corrosive materials, a good conductor of heat, flexible and hardwearing. Copper pipe tends to come in two types flexible and rigid.
Rigid: Rigid copper pipe comes in several different thicknesses and is generally used for exterior drain applications.
Flexible: Flexible copper pipe is often used to supply household appliances with water.
Copper piping in generally joined with either soldered or compressed fittings.
Plastic: Plastic piping was fitted in most homes from the 1970’s onwards due to its inexpensive cost. However not all plastic piping can be used for all things. There are many different types of plastic piping: ABS, PVC, CPVC, schedule 40 and 80 PVC and PEX, are the most commonly used in a domestic residence.
ABS: ABS, is black plastic pipe and is mainly found in older properties. The joints of this type of pipework have a tendency to come loose, therefore a replacement is advised for this type of pipe.
PVC: This is the most commonly used type of plastic piping, it comes in both white and cream and it is impervious to most chemicals.
CPVC: CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), has the advantage over normal PVC in that it is also heat resistant. This enables it to be used for interior supply lines.
Schedule 40/80 PVC: Neither the schedule 40 or 80 PVC are used often because they can only be used for a cold water supply in domestic situations and it is not always considered strong enough to be used for this. A building inspector should be consulted before this is installed as it is not considered appropriate in all regions of the country.
PEX: PEX (cross-linked polyethylene), cuts easily, is flexible and can be used with compression fittings. However, PEX is three times more expensive than copper or plastic.
Compression Fittings: Compression fittings enable two pipes, made of different materials, to be connected together. The fittings also enable water to be turned off from a singular source, instead of having to stop the water flow throughout the entire residence.
Galvanised Steel: Steel is more common in older domestic homes because it is known to have a limited life-span of between 40-50 years, before replacement will become necessary. There are cheaper, more flexible, longer lasting alternatives available. The replacement of steel pipes should only be attempted by a professional.
Cast Iron: Iron piping was used for exterior drain piping, both vertical and horizontal, within a domestic situation before 1960. Although durable and hardwearing, Iron is also prone to rust.
Do I have Lead pipes?
All properties built after 1970 will not contain lead piping. However, homes build before this time may still have their water supply provided by lead pipes.
What’s the problem with lead pipes?
The problem with lead piping is that it can be poisonous. Continued exposure to lead in your diet via water, vegetation grown in contaminated soil or from lead based paint, can cause serious health problems. Lead poisoning can cause symptoms such as: abdominal pain, confusion, headaches, anaemia and irritation. In some severe cases lead poisoning can also cause coma and death.
The best option is to limit exposure to lead. With water pipes, procedures like allowing the water to flow for at least 15-30 seconds before drinking, especially if the faucet has not been used for any length of time, is good practice for the future. In the case of lead paint that you may have in your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself; lead paint dust would be driven into the air and could be inhaled into the lungs. Always allow an expert to remove lead paint from a residence as they are trained to do this appropriately.
If you are the owner of an older property, you may need to be aware of Asbestos insulation housing, surrounding exterior pipework.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a building material made from fibrous silicate minerals. Investigations into the use of asbestos in the late twentieth century revealed it to be a hazardous, toxic material. You can find Asbestos in many household items and coatings including: soffit-boards, asbestos cement boiler and ceiling flues, toilets, roofing.
What does Asbestos do?
When Asbestos is disturbed, fibres are released into the air and can cause long-term health problems including: various types of cancer, a reduction of blood flow to the lungs, enlargement of the heart and scaring of the lungs which restricts the expansion of the lungs.
What should I do If I suspect Asbestos is present?
Only a trained engineer can work with Asbestos, and then only in a limited capacity. However, Asbestos removal may only be carried out by a licenced Asbestos professional.