Condensate Pipe Caught a Chill?

Condensate Pipe Caught a Chill?

November 30, 2018 1 By Nicola Litchfield

In recent years, sudden and extreme weather seems more common. 2018 alone has shown the chaos Britain can descend into when snow and cold strikes. The Beast from the East back in February of this year disrupted more than just our transport and services. For many, working from home was no cosy compensation, due to a frozen external condensate pipe battering the boiler. Additionally, this meant more call outs for Plumbers to unfreeze our pipes and save us from frostbite.

For some context, this became a more prominent issue in 2005, when there were revisions made to the Building Regulations. The amendments stated that all new gas and oil boilers must be of the condensing type, to reduce national carbon emissions. These boilers produce condensate which is released as a waste product. Enter centre stage, the condensate pipe.


The External Condensate Pipe

Many have an external condensate pipe, running outside of their house. This is very standard with perfect functionality, until we are plunged into the depths of winter. When extreme cold weather hits, the condensate from your boiler can freeze inside the pipe. This will cause a blockage and stop the flow of your boiler, resulting in your heating also coming to a halt. Not ideal when the Beast from the East or the Chill from Brazil shows up.

With these climatic changes in mind, the heating and plumbing industry now take extra measures to ensure we are prepared for cold periods. So much so, that the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council have renewed their guidelines for installers fitting new boilers. However, there are preventative measures that can be taken by homeowners, so you are less likely to be left in the cold in the first place.


Preventative Measures for Home Owners

To keep your condensate pipe from becoming frozen, there are some precautionary measures you can take. If your external condensate pipe is outside or in an unheated space such as a garage or attic, your pipe is more likely to become frozen.


HHIC Director Stewart Clements – “We are acutely aware that in extreme weather conditions external pipework carrying water is at risk of freezing, particularly when there is a high wind chill factor.”


Just as we get hats and gloves on, your pipe needs to be insulated. The pipework equivalent of a scarf if you will. Here are some simple steps to keep the chill out of your condensate:

  • The Heat Wrap – You can purchase a foam heat wrap quite cheaply. Some are like a hollowed-out swimming noodles, and some are a silver insulation material. Wrap this around your pipe and it should keep it above freezing.
  • Turn it up – A boiler set to a higher temperature won’t product as much condensate as waste, so you have less chance of a freeze blocking your pipe. Be careful of how hot your radiators get, and it is not advised to follow this method if you have underfloor heating. Also, re
    member to set your heating back to normal once it isn’t completely Baltic outside!
  • Low and Slow – By leaving your heating on low overnight, your system will stay above freezing temperature. Then when you turn the heating on it will heat up quicker. However, this method will use up more money and energy.
  • Fight the Elements with an Element – A Trace Heating Element is extremely effective and isn’t expensive to run. They run down the inside of your pipe and keep things nice a toasty. If you purchase one you should have a professional install it for you.


If your pipe has already frozen:

Hot Water Bottle – Apply a hot water bottle to the frozen part of your pipe until it has defrosted. The freeze will most likely be near the end of the pipe where it is most exposed to the cold.

Hot Water – You can also simply thaw the pipe with hot water. It is recommended that you don’t use boiling water as the sudden change in temperature could crack your pipe. Make sure don’t disconnect your pipe while doing this.

Call It In – If your pipe has frozen and you aren’t confident sorting it yourself, always call a professional plumber or installer. They will fix the problem and can give you some advice on how to stop your pipe freezing again.

The last thing anyone needs during winter is a broken boiler, so taking some steps to keep your condensate pipe above freezing temperature can save you a lot of hassle! But if it does freeze, a professional will get it sorted. New boilers are installed with our cold winters considered, so new condensate boilers are already semi-prepared. However, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side!