Updated on 29th November, 2023 by Martin Astley
As the temperature is dropping, boilers need a little more care to function properly. During low temperatures, you might observe a boiler breakdown or uneven heat supply. This problem might be caused by a frozen condensate pipe. This problem occurs when the temperature drops below freezing but the fix for this is very simple as all it requires is hot water.
What is a Condensate Pipe?
A condensate pipe releases residual water outside the house. This water is acidic in nature and is produced when the water in the boiler comes into contact with flue gases. This process is called condensing. The release of waste-water increases your boiler’s efficiency and makes sure that you get an uninterrupted heat supply. Hence the condensate pipe plays a vital role in your boiler’s health.
Identifying a Condensate Pipe
With multiple pipes running through your boilers, it could be confusing to locate the condensate pipe. But fortunately, the condensate pipe is easily recognizable because of its location and its structure. Unlike other boiler pipes, a condensate pipe is made of plastic, usually white or black in colour, and leads outside the house.
How Does a Condensate Pipe Freeze?
As the condensate pipe lies outside the house it can freeze when the temperature drops. The water flowing through the pipe freezes, blocking the release of residual water from the boiler. The condensate pipe has valves inside it, which are automatically turned off to prevent the boiler from any severe damage in such condition. However, when water does not find a way out, it starts to accumulate in the boiler, causing it to shut down or make unusual gurgling noises.
How to Recognize a Frozen Condensate Pipe?
Before jumping to the steps of how to thaw a condensate pipe, it is necessary to make sure that you can accurately diagnose the problem.
- In most boilers, if the pipe is frozen, the boiler would not start and flash a warning or an error code for the frozen pipe. The error code varies with every boiler brand. Following are a few brands’ error codes:
|Baxi||E133 or E28|
|Ideal Boilers||L2, LF, or F2|
|Glow-Worm||F28 or F29|
|Potterton||E133 or E28. Or, the error code may alternate between E1 and E33|
|Worcester Bosch||EA229 or D5|
|Vaillant||F28 or F29|
To get more ideas about Ideal boiler codes, read this article.
- Or your boiler would make an unusual gurgling sound, which would indicate this problem.
- If your boiler was serviced recently and performing well before the temperature turned to freeze, this in itself is a strong signal that you may have a problem with the condensate pipe.
How to Defrost a Condensate Pipe?
A frozen condensate pipe is not something to worry about as this problem has an easy solution without any need for special tools or raw materials.
Note: If you are unsure whether your boiler has this issue or not, you can call our 24/7 helpline for immediate assistance.
Step 1: Locate the Blockage.
Find the freezing spot in the pipe, usually, the most exposed part of the pipe gets frozen. To find the problem, feel the pipe with your hand. You should be able to find the blocked part as it will be colder than the rest of the pipe.
Step 2: Pour Hot Water Over the Frozen Spot.
Boil water in your kettle, but let it cool for a few minutes. Make sure the water is not bubbling, or it will cause the pipe to melt. Pour the water over the affected spot. For a better result, you can pour water all over the pipe until it unfreezes.
Step 3: Restart your Boiler.
After the unfreezing, restart your boiler, and it should work fine. If it still shows the error code or doesn’t start, repeat the above process as sometimes the freezing takes multiple pours of hot water to melt away completely.
Can you Prevent your Pipe from Freezing?
Yes, by following some preventive measures, you can prevent your condensate pipe from freezing.
Consider Leaving the Heating on Overnight:
Running your heating system all night can keep the condensate pipe warm while the temperature drops at night and would help to keep it unblocked. But consider your boiler’s energy consumption as running your system overnight could cost more than your regular budget.
Raising the Temperature of the Heating System:
Turning your heating system to a higher temperature will increase the condensate pipe’s temperature, hence lowering the chances of the pipe to get frozen. Be aware that setting your system to a high temperature will raise your heating bills as your system will consume more energy to produce an increased amount of heating.
Installing a Trace:
Trace is an electrical element installed beneath the pipe which warms it up when the temperature drops extremely low. It is the best way to protect your pipe from freezing, up to the temperature of -20°C.
A condensate pipe is not hard to repair but could lead to a boiler breakdown if not treated in time. So whenever the temperature of your area drops to extreme conditions, remember to have a check on your condensate pipe.
If you are unsure about defrosting it yourself, you can always contact a 24/7 Home Rescue’s professional heating engineer who will do it for you. Our engineer will reach you within 24 hours.
Watch: How to Defrost a Frozen Condensate Pipe
For an attempted visual of how to thaw a condensate pipe, watch this video.