After 2018’s ‘Beast from the East’, which cost the UK a reported £1 billion worth of damage to the economy, it’s understandable that businesses are now doing their best to protect themselves from the potential hazards of another winter.

With temperatures last winter regularly falling below zero, protecting water pipes from freezing - and then potentially bursting - is a priority. Although no single measure can be guaranteed to protect your pipes from freezing this winter, there are some steps that business can take to minimise the risks.

Keeping buildings warm is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of pipes freezing. Keep your business heated and warm, and if the business is going to be closed for a few days, consider leaving the heating on low. Whenever possible, leaving doors open, including cupboards and cabinets, can also help that warm air to circulate and get into all those nooks and crannies where water pipes often live.

Insulation is also very important. Water tanks should be fitted with an insulation jacket or wrapped in a suitable material. Pipes can also be protected by applying insulating tape directly on or around the pipes.

frozen pipe

In the past, there has been conflicting information as to whether or not taps should be left to drip. Some common knowledge suggests that leaving taps to trickle slightly maintains the flow of water and prevents the water from freezing within the pipe. There’s some logic to that - moving water doesn’t freeze as fast as still water - but in recent times, another school of thought has emerged that suggests this could be counter-productive. Some say that the dripping water could freeze in the drain and potentially block the sink, leading to an overflow. That does present a risk, so at the very least it’s good to be informed about the potential effects of any measures you take.

The reality is there is no concrete way to prevent water from freezing when the temperature drops. If that water freezes in your pipe or in the drain, the consequences can be significant. The jury is apparently still out on whether it’s best to leave taps to drip or not, but in the meantime, these tips can help to protect your pipes over winter:

  • Warm buildings offer the best protection against frozen pipes
  • When possible, open doors and allow warm air to circulate around every part of your business
  • Ensure your water tank is fitted with an insulation jacket or wrapped with suitable material
  • Water pipes, tanks or toilets should also be insulated. If not in use over winter, consider having them drained
  • Repair any leaks at taps or valves which could freeze over
  • Reduce draughts, which can cause pipework to freeze
  • Always have adequate insurance in place
  • Find and know how to use your stopcock and have the phone number of an emergency plumber to hand.

For more information on preventing frozen pipes read our Winter Wise Guide