Frozen condensate pipe

Does your boiler not work in freezing temperatures

Your boiler may have stopped working when it freezes. Even the best boilers will not work if you have a frozen condensate pipe which will affect the whole of your central heating system.

Fortunately, this is not a major problem, it is very common and one of the biggest reasons people call out a heating engineer when they really don’t have to. As we say this can be resolved easily without the assistance of an engineer and save you some money along the way.

This page contains all you need to know about how to defrost a frozen condensate pipe quickly and easily to get your boiler back up and running in no time.

Why do condensate pipes freeze?

When Winter gets exceptionally cold outside, it is common to experience a frozen boiler condensate pipe. When the temperatures really drop can lead to the water in the pipes freezing and forming a blockage. To protect your boiler and your home, the boiler will recognise this, stop working, and will then lockout to prevent wastewater from accumulating and flooding which can lead to even more problems.

We recommend that the boiler’s hot water temperature is turned up for a while to prevent condensate pipes from freezing. The boiler will heat up more, which will reduce the condensate buildup and decrease the chance of the pipe freezing. This does however mean that radiators will heat up more and you’ll pay more for heating. Remember to adjust the thermostat after it has been extremely cold.

How can I tell if my condensate pipe has frozen?

You might hear a gurgling sound coming from your boiler if part of your condensate pipe freezes and your pipework is located outside. If this happens, it could also be a sign that your boiler’s digital display has been set to an ‘EA” error code for example if you have a Worcester Bosch boiler. If your condensate pipe becomes frozen, there is no reason to panic. It is possible to safely thaw your condensate pipe without calling an engineer or installer.

Where is the condensate pipe?

Condensate pipes run from the boiler to an existing waste pipe system or external drain pipe. It will be located outside your home if it is connected to an exterior drain pipe. This pipe can freeze if it is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period.

How to thaw a frozen boiler condensate pipe

The following steps can be used to quickly restore normalcy to your boiler condensate pipe if you suspect it to have frozen.
Don’t forget. If you aren’t confident following this guide, you can contact an expert boiler engineer.

  1. Confirm that the boiler condensate pipe has been frozenA ‘fault code or warning light may be displayed on your boiler’s display to indicate a frozen condensate pipe. This depends on the make and type of the boiler. Another sign that the condensate pipe has frozen is the gurgling or bubbling sound coming from the boiler.
  2. Find the source of the blockageThe most exposed part of the pipe may be frozen. This could be at the elbow or bend, or at the open end. You can quickly identify the blockage by running your hands across the plastic pipe until you feel a section colder than the rest.
  3. To thaw the pipe, use hot waterUse a watering can or jug to pour hot water along the length the pipe. Continue this process until it thaws ( Do not use boiling water, as this could crack the pipe). If you are using a kettle, let it cool for at least 15 mins after it has been boiled. To slowly defrost the pipe, you can also use a hot water bottle and a heat pack.
  4. Start your boilerAfter the frozen section is melted, clear it. Refer to your boiler manual for detailed instructions on how you can reset the boiler properly. The boiler should now be able to restart.
  5. Still not working? Try againYour boiler may not start immediately. However, it may take several attempts to stop the condensate pipe freezing up again.

Should you use boiler water to thaw a frozen condensate pipe?

No! Avoid pouring boiling water on your condensate pipe as it can cause cracks. Only pour hot or warm water on your condensate pipe.

Are you using a kettle? You can use a kettle? To defrost slowly the pipe, you can also use a hot water bottle and a heat pack.

How to stop condensate pipes from freezing

Wrap your condensate pipe in old towels immediately if they aren’t already. This will prevent them from freezing again. You should get to your local DIY shop as soon as possible to purchase foam pipe insulation for wrapping the condensate pipes in. You can get a variety sizes of insulation, so make sure to measure the diameter of your pipe before you purchase.

Even the best insulation might not be sufficient to stop the condensate pipe from freezing in extreme weather conditions. Temporarily running your boiler while the cold spell continues may be a good idea. Keep the boiler thermostat at the highest setting possible. If your boiler continues to have problems, you should call a qualified boiler engineer.

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