Frozen condensate

Do we need a rethink on the rules after cold spell?

Policy-makers should prioritise the mechanical services of both new and existing properties in the UK, says Worcester Bosch, following an unprecedented number of callouts relating to frozen drains and pipework.

The company’s Martyn Bridges says a degree of complacency concerning external pipework may have been to blame for an extremely high number of difficulties arising from frozen condensate pipes.

“In Germany and other European countries that experience severe winter temperatures, the installation of externally routed condensate pipework is not allowed. Prior to taking this decision, they also tried preventative measures such as trace heating and insulation. However, with prolonged sub-zero temperatures almost guaranteed every year, no preventative measures worked convincingly, so this internal pipe termination was enforced.

“The UK hasn’t experienced a cold period like [there was] at the beginning of March since the winter of 2009-2010. Therefore, without a constant pattern and threat of sub-zero temperatures, it is understandable that some installations will have the condensate pipe run externally for ease, despite an internal termination being possible.

“As the freezing temperatures rolled in, many homeowners were left unprepared. You only have to look at the thousands of homes still relying on deliveries of bottled water to see how serious the effects can be.”

Frozen condensate occurs in pipework that has been fitted externally, particularly pipes that run either virtually horizontal, or at a relatively moderate gradient towards the drainpipe. The blockages caused by frozen condensate can, and often do, lead to a shutdown of the heating system.

Martyn is particularly concerned about the number of homes still relying on externally run condensate, despite regulations brought out in 2014 mandating internal routing and allowing externally run pipework only as a last resort.

“I’m still seeing new-builds being constructed with external waste water pipework, which is incomprehensible,” he says. “For too long the mechanical services of a property are not being thought through sufficiently at the planning stage to help eliminate these sorts of issues.

“Furthermore, the implementation of Boiler Plus, while highly beneficial to energy efficiency, will increase the levels of condensate generated by the boiler and subsequently the condensate pipework. This could increase the likelihood of freezing during the winter even more.”

Martyn wants policy-makers to ensure that all Building Regulations, standards and policies are aligned to prioritising the mechanical services of the home.

Related Articles