The Beast from the East is paralysing the U.K. leaving many students and workers to cosy up at home. But this blast from Siberia that is freezing more than roads – it’s freezing the sea. The weather is creating huge challenges for emergency workers and families. Hopefully, you have a good stock of food in case you don’t need to leave your home until the storm lets up and the roads are safe.

Countries that are used to freezing weather and frozen roads have ways of coping that you may not have considered. If you must drive, the Canadian Automobile Association warns drivers that cold temperatures can put a huge strain on car batteries. Before you start your car, turn off the heater, radio, lights, and any other accessories powered by the auto battery. Do not turn them on until the battery is warm. Keep the fuel tank at least half full to prevent a fuel line freeze, and check tire pressure frequently. In Alaska, outdoor plugs for car battery heaters are used routinely so the car will start in cold temperatures.

Even if your necessary drive is a short one, stock your car with the following: fully charged mobile phone and power pack, extra warm clothing including hat and gloves, ice scraper for windshields, booster cables, blankets, extra windscreen washer fluid, packaged snack foods such as energy bars, and bottled water. A notepad and pencil will come in handy if you must leave your vehicle when travelling on quiet roads. Write down your name, contact information, time you left your vehicle, and direction you are headed. For traffic jams, pack a book so you won’t be tempted to turn on the radio to help pass the time. This drains the battery.

Obviously, it’s safest to stay at home. Have torches and candles handy in case the power goes out. Fill buckets and bottles with water in case the water pipes freeze. You can get by without power and water if you’ve seen to these basics. But the boiler is another matter. You cannot bottle heat!

How to manage your boiler in a deep freeze

A common cold-weather cause of boiler failure is a frozen condensate pipe. This is the pipe that carries the condensation from your boiler to your outside wastewater drain. The best way to keep this from freezing is to place weatherproof sleeves (or a hot water bottle) around the pipe. But well into a storm isn’t the time to motor to the shops for weatherproof sleeves. Take preventative action by checking the snowfall. If it begins to cover the pipe, even slightly, brush off the snow with a broom and shovel around the pipe. Keep the pipe and drain free of snow.

If your condensate pipe is frozen, defrost it. You can use hot water bottles, heat wraps, and hand warmers safely. A heat lamp or hair dryer used with proper electrical precautions are also effective. Pouring warm water over the pipe helps to melt the ice, but never use boiling water as the sharp temperature contrast could break the pipe. It may take some time to melt the ice. If you think the pipe is unfrozen, try switching on the boiler again. If the boiler fires up, your problem is solved — for the moment. You’ll need to check the pipe about every hour and be prepared to defrost the line again if it looks the least bit frozen.

If your home remedies are not working, an engineer will be needed to unfreeze the pipes — or a nice warm day. Bundle up and plan activities for your family that generate heat — anything that keeps the body moving. Serve plenty of warm food and drinks. Remember that a lot of heat is lost through the head, so make sure everyone wears a warm hat. In a cold weather emergency such as this week, it will take some time for an engineer to help you as the demand is huge. When you call, be sure to inform your supplier of family members the cold may endanger such as an infant or a very ill or frail person.

Once your boiler is working again, you may want to call our engineers to install pipe insulation or shorten the pipe so you will not have to worry about frozen pipes again. It’s also sensitive to have a commercial boiler maintenance plan in place if anything goes wrong.

Keep warm and stay safe!

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