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Winter tips for Tenants

The snow and freezing temperatures will arrive with a bang in December, wreaking havoc in homes across Scotland as pipes freeze and burst, boilers break down and people can be left without heating. Throughout the Christmas and New Year period, maintenance issues will be emergency only, so with that in mind, here are some tips to see you through the cold period:

1

Low boiler pressure can be a sign of issues with your heating system and can lead to major problems such as boiler leaks, no hot water and no heating, if not rectified quickly. Make sure you regularly check the pressure gauge, especially after bleeding the radiators.
The pressure gauge will either be on the front of the boiler or just underneath.
It looks exactly like the pressure gauge on a bike or car tyre pump and will have numbers 0-4 on display. When the boiler is off, the gauge should show around 1 bar of pressure. If the boiler is working, it should show around 1 to 2 bars of pressure.

If the boiler pressure is below 1.5 bar, then you can increase the pressure by using the filling loop to put more water into the system.
First, you need to find the filling loop – this could either be under the boiler attached to the boiler isolation valves, under the boiler with a big silver loop joining two pipes together, or somewhere else in your heating system.
Other typical places to look include under your kitchen sink, in an old airing cupboard, behind a pipe box under the boiler, or next to the boiler.
There are various videos online for your specific boiler if you are having trouble finding the filling loop.

2

It is tempting to turn off the heating to save money, particularly given the current cost of living crisis.

However, if you switch the heating off or only heat a few rooms in your property, then you run the risk of frozen and burst pipes – with a costly clean-up and repair bill for the landlord.

Using a timer to have the heating turned on, on the lowest heat setting or the frost setting, for a few hours in the morning and evening will ensure that heat continues to circulate through the system.

As well as stopping pipes from freezing, this will also help to protect your rental property in winter against damp and mould.

3

A huge number of costly boiler callouts each winter are due to frozen condensate pipes, however, defrosting them is easily done, without the help of an engineer.
If you have a condensing boiler in your property, then it will have a condensate pipe carrying away wastewater from the boiler to a waste pipe system or outdoor drainpipe.

Pipes running to outdoor drainage are more susceptible to freezing – a gurgling sound from the boiler is an indicator of this.
A frozen condensate pipe means the boiler then won’t start, so you will be left without heating or hot water. The exterior condensate pipe is usually white plastic, so ensure you know where it is.
If the water inside it freezes, you simply need to pour warm water along the pipe until the ice inside begins to melt and falls out. It’s important to note never to use boiling water for this – this could damage the pipe, leading to further issues. Once the pipe is clear, you can restart the boiler by following the instructions in your boiler manual.

4

The need to keep people and homes warm through the winter can increase fire risk – are you cosying up in front of a fire or brightening the dark evenings by lighting candles? Every home in Scotland now must legally have interlinked smoke alarms, with a heat alarm in the kitchen.

In addition, every room containing a carbon-fuelled appliance (including boilers, fires, non-electric heaters) or flue must also have a carbon monoxide detector.
Make sure the correct alarms and detectors are fitted in your property – these must be either sealed battery or mains-wired alarms. Mains-wired alarms must be installed by a qualified electrician and must be replaced every ten years. Sealed-battery alarms should be tamper-proof for the duration of its lifespan, which may be up to 10 years. All detectors must have a clear installation date and expiry date.

5

Should the worst happen, making sure that you know where to turn off the water and gas will help to minimise the damage.
The water is turned off by a stopcock or inside stop valve, usually found just after the water pipe enters the property.

This is often under the kitchen sink, but might also be near the front door, in a garage or utility room, in the bathroom, in an airing cupboard or under the stairs.

A block of flats might have a communal inside stopcock, again usually found where the water supply enters the building. There may also be additional stopcocks where the water supply enters your flat.
The gas is turned off by an emergency control valve, or ECV – this is usually found right next to the gas meter, but there may be multiple ECVs in larger properties.

I hope you find this information helpful throughout the winter period. If you do have an emergency over the Christmas and New Year period, we have a list of out of hours engineers to attend, please call 07824 160 795. Please use a degree of common sense in determining what is a real emergency.