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South West Water and customers Get Ready for Winter

With forecasters warning of icy weather conditions around the corner, South West Water is reminding customers to take precautions to avoid leaks and burst water pipe damage.

Burst pipe damage cost homeowners over £680 million nationally in property claims following the post Christmas thaw in 2010.[1]

South West Water's Head of Drinking Water Services Guy Doble said: "We want to help customers avoid serious problems with their pipework by providing what we hope will be useful information to prepare for the winter months ahead.

"Any big freeze is followed by a thaw and homeowners and businesses can be left counting the cost if their pipes burst after periods of sub-zero temperatures. You can help prepare your home or business and avoid this happening by following some simple steps."

South West Water is offering advice on its website on how to safeguard your pipes as part of the national, Get Ready for Winter campaign.

Top ten tips for a problem-free winter


Know where your internal stop tap is and how to turn it off. If you don't have one please consider getting one installed by a reputable
plumber so you can operate and control your water supply in the case of an emergency 


Check existing insulation and replace areas showing wear and tear


Fully lag all pipes if possible but especially those in unheated areas such as lofts, garages or gardens


Get advice about insulation thickness from the experts at a DIY store


Isolate and drain outside taps


On very cold days, leave the loft hatch open to allow warm air to circulate and prevent pipes from freezing


If you go away for a few days, ask a friend to visit and keep watch for leaks


If you go away for an extended period of time, leave your central heating on a low setting


Cold water tanks should be insulated on all sides but not underneath to allow warm air to circulate


Keep the contact details of a reputable plumber to hand.

What to do if you discover a problem


If you don't have any water check with neighbours. If they still have water, your pipes may be frozen


Check pipes for signs of a split - a burst will not occur until the water has thawed


Turn off the supply using the internal stop tap


Turn off the central heating and any other water heating appliances


Drain the system by flushing the toilet and opening cold taps over sinks and baths


If you don't find any damage, turn on all the taps and thaw the frozen pipe using a warm towel or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel


When the pipes have thawed and you're sure no damage or leak has occurred, turn off the taps and slowly switch the supply back using the internal stop tap


Check the pipes again now that they are under pressure and check again for signs of damage or a leak before switching on water heating appliances


If you discover a leak or burst pipe, call a reputable plumber immediately. See www.watersafe.org.uk for a list of recommended plumbers.

Remember customers are responsible for all pipework including underground pipework from the boundary of their property.

What is South West Water doing?

Leakage from the company's water distribution network can increase during very cold periods. South West Water has a team of 55 leak detectors across the region that track down and repair almost 5,000 leaks every year. During the winter period these numbers are increased to respond to additional leaks that occur.

Our customers can help us find and repair leaks on our network as quickly as possible by reporting any leaks they see through our website or if the leak needs urgent repair, please call our free helpline on 0800 230 0561 (available 24 hours a day).

Find out more information on how to protect your pipework, or guidance on what to do if you have a problem, visit www.southwestwater.co.uk/getreadyforwinter.

Or to report a leak visit www.southwestwater.co.uk/leaks.

Notes for editors

  • South West Water is responsible for pipes in the public network but customers are responsible for the pipework between their properties and our water main.

[1] The Association of British Insurers revealed its members dealt with £680 million in property claims for burst pipe damage during December 2010.

Published: 25 November 2013

For further information please contact:

Press Office
South West Water

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