What Is A Condensate Pipe

Condensing boilers are highly efficient boilers over 87% efficient compared to the more tradiational boilers. The increased efficiency of condensing boilers is down to the extraction of heat from the otherwise wasted flue gasses. Condensing boilers take as much heat as they can from the boilers flue gasses, this causes some of the flue gasses to condensate and cool turning from a gas to a liquid. It is this transformation to a liquid within the condensate pipe of the boiler. It is the external condensing waste pipe that can freeze in very cold temperatures causing the boiler to shut off, leaving you with no heat or hot water.

How To Tell Its The Frozen Condensate?
It can be a little worrying having your boiler switch itself off on the coldest time of the year! It can be even more worrying having your boiler maintenance on the phone who are already in abundance with similar calls telling you they do not cover frozen condensate pipes. Or stating that they will come out but if it is found to be the condensate pipe then they will charge you extra for the call out. Understandably you want to be sure what the problem is before taking action, below we have highlighted some of the main factors that alert to the issue being a frozen condensate waste pipe.

  • The boiler has been working perfectly fine, its a very cold day and the boiler has all of a sudden shut itself off, leaving you with no heat or hot water.
  • There is a light flashing on the boiler indicating a frozen condensate pipe
  • You can hear a bubbling noise coming from the boiler or the pipes.

Once you have narrowed the problem down to the outside condensate waste pipe being frozen there are a number of options you can take to attempt to thaw the condensate pipe. You could pour warm water over the condensate pipe where it comes out of the outside wall, try insulating the pipe to protect it from the cold using towels and blankets. Alternatively you could place several hot water bottles around the condensate in order to thaw the pipe.

Frozen condensate pipes are a common fault for any condensing boiler, every condensing boiler manufacturer has issues with their boilers when temperatures drop well below zero. I am sure they are working hard to design future boilers not to have this industry wide problem, although this does not help us now when a frozen condensate pipe is a real problem to us. Recent winters have seen the UK with temperatures of -20 Degrees Celsius and below. Many people have taken to contacting their heating maintenance suppliers who are often excuse the pun snowed under themselves and do not have an engineer they can send to you! Or even worse charge extra for coming out to you for a frozen condensate pipe.

Prepare For Another Cold Winter!
If you have a condensing boiler it may be worth preparing yourself from another cold winter this year. Take the time now to speak to a heating engineer about the steps you can take in order protect your condensate pipes from the cold temperatures. Below we have highlighted several steps you could take to help prevent your condensate pipe from freezing, although it is also a good idea to speak to your boiler maintenance contractors in preparation.

  • Lag your condensate pipe now! You can visit any plumbing merchant to ask them what is the best pipe lagging to use in order to insulate a condensate pipe.
  • Keep your boiler on low day and night during the very cold spells, this should prevent the condensate pipe from freezing. You are also likely to spend less money on your fuel bills by keeping your boiler on day and night, as opposed to keep turning your boiler on and off throughout the day and night, the boiler fire up stage uses the most energy. It is much better to maintain an adequate level of heating rather then constantly hot then cold.