Irish Water and local authorities nationwide are asking homes and businesses to take some simple steps to avoid damage to pipes and help conserve water during the cold weather.

Freezing conditions can lead to a higher than normal volume of burst pipes. A burst pipe can cause severe damage, while also leading to valuable water being lost.

According to Irish Water, sometimes a small leak can go undetected for weeks, resulting in expensive repair bills and a disrupted water supply.

To avoid this, the utility is asking home and business owners, i.e. farmers with outside water supplies, to take some simple steps to winter-proof their premises over the coming months.

Speaking about preparing for colder weather, Tom Cuddy, head of operations with Irish Water, said: “With temperatures often dipping below zero at this time of year, we are appealing to homes, businesses and those responsible for unoccupied buildings to check for leaks whilst adhering to current public health regulations and advice, and to turn off water where it’s not needed.

“We are also appealing to customers to check outside pipes in particular that can become frozen and burst during periods of cold weather, and report leaks they see on the public network to us. 

“Small efforts by everyone to conserve water wherever possible make a big difference and we would ask the public to only use what they need whilst continuing to adhere to public health advice on hand washing and hygiene regarding Covid-19.”

Simple advice on conservation includes e.g. taking showers over baths and fixing dripping taps where it is possible to do so.

What to do if you have frozen pipes

water frost

If you have a basic knowledge of plumbing, these tips will help you locate and thaw a frozen pipe. If you are unsure of what to do, the utility advises to call a registered plumber.

  • Turn off the water supply, this will limit the amount of leakage or damage if a pipe bursts;
  • Find and turn off your inside stop valve, usually located under the kitchen sink;
  • Turn off the stopcock in your cold water tank, usually located in the attic.

Locate the pipe

  • Check the pressure in appliances i.e. taps and toilets to see if it is lower than usual;
  • Locate the general area where you think there may be a frozen pipe;
  • Check for visible pipes that are not insulated, pipes that feel much colder than others, have nearby draughts or damage;
  • Turn on nearby cold taps to relieve pressure on the frozen pipe. Never turn on the hot taps.

Thaw the pipe

If the pipe and fittings are not cracked or broken, you can try gently thawing the pipe.

Irish Water says to protect or move anything which might be damaged if the pipe bursts when thawed. Use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to gently warm the pipe, starting at the end nearest the tap.

People are advised to never attempt to thaw out frozen pipes by switching on the immersion, central heating, blow torch etc.

What to do if you have a burst water pipe

A burst pipe can cause serious damage to your home or building so it is important to take action as soon as possible.

  • Turn off the water supply as instructed above;
  • Drain the system by turning on all the cold taps and flushing the toilets;
  • Switch off the central heating and immersion. If you use solid fuel, let it die out;
  • When the water heating is completely off, turn on the hot taps to further drain the system;
  • If water from a burst pipe is leaking near any sockets, switches or appliances, switch off the mains if it is safe to do so. If the switch is wet, do not touch it, instead call a qualified electrician;
  • Check with your neighbours that turning off the water has not affected their supply.

Get it repaired

You can make a temporary repair to a burst pipe by binding it tightly with a cloth or tape. However, Irish Water advises to replace this as soon as possible by a permanent repair, carried out by a qualified and registered plumber.

It’s important to ensure your hot water system is refilled before you switch back on your immersion or boiler.

To report a leak, contact Irish Water on: 1800 278 278.