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Protect your pipes this winter

Person adjusts their thermostatic radiator valves to the frost setting.

With energy bills at an all time high, you might be using your heating less than usual this winter. As temperatures drop, it’s important to protect your home. Pipes don’t like the cold, and without the heating warming them up, they’re at risk of freezing or bursting. This could leave you with unexpected costs and damages to deal with. Here is some useful advice from Scottish Water on how to protect your pipes this winter. 


Insulating pipes and water tanks is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to protect your home during cold weather. If you have a water tank, fit it with an insulation jacket or wrap the top and sides of the tank with suitable insulation material.

Efficient condensing boilers produce a small amount of condensate which drains away through a plastic pipe, usually outside. If that pipe gets blocked with a build-up of ice, the boiler will stop working. Insulate the plastic pipe with foam pipe insulation to keep it warmer and prevent the condensate water from freezing.  

Scottish Water have a helpful video to learn more about insulating your home and pipes efficiently.

Use frost-protection settings

Modern central heating systems have frost-protection built in, which will fire up the boiler if needed, even when your heating is turned off. This is perfect if you’re going away as you can set your programmer to the holiday setting.

For combi boilers, you’ll need to check the pressure gauge. If the boiler doesn’t have enough pressure, the frost protection might not operate correctly.

You can adjust thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to the frost setting to make sure your radiators use the minimum amount of energy to protect your home.

If you don’t have frost-protection, set your heating thermostat to 10C and the programmer to On, or 24h, to achieve a similar effect. The heating will only come on if the temperature inside your home drops below 10C, so it shouldn’t use a lot of energy.

Be prepared

Find out where your stop valve is. If a pipe freezes or bursts, you’ll need to switch off the valve immediately. The location of the stop valve will vary, but the most common locations are under a sink, in a garage or close to the hot water system (wherever the mains supply enters your house). This handy guide from Scottish Water could help you locate your stop valve.

If you are going away, make sure a friend, family member or neighbour can check on your home regularly. It is important for them to stop taps from dripping and check that frost-protection settings are working.

Following these tips could help you protect your pipes from freezing and avoid expensive damages. For more information, Scottish Water have a great page on protecting your pipes. If in doubt about protecting your plumbing from the cold, or if your pipes have frozen or burst, contact a licensed plumber. To find a licensed plumber in your area visit WaterSafe or SNIPEF.