Beat the winter blues: The best valves to protect homes this winter

Man, indoors wrapped up in layers

The winter season presents its own set of plumbing and heating challenges to the homeowner, which, if gone unchecked, can be damaging and costly.

Problems from frozen pipework to ineffective heating and water leaks are all troublesome to homeowners and particularly challenging during the colder months. At a time when many people are hesitant to put their heating on, it is especially important to ensure that it is working at full efficiency when it is on. It is no surprise that installers receive more emergency callouts for plumbing and heating issues during the winter season.

Choosing the right valves is extremely important to protect homes this winter and for many more winters to come. With that being said, here are the most important considerations to winterproof plumbing and heating systems to avoid disruption and costly remedial works, while ensuring that homeowners are all comfy cozy at home during the colder months.

Keeping your water heater in check

With families and friends visiting over the holiday period, it’s not uncommon for water heaters to get more of a workout than they are ready for or alternatively they can rise to the challenge a bit too well and could risk scalding, which would of course put a damper on the holiday cheer.

If a water heater struggles to keep up with demand or delivers water that’s a bit too hot, having the right valve installed can make all the difference. Firstly, it is essential that the heater’s pressure relief valve is working effectively. A pressure relief valve, such as the 101 Series Sealed Heating System Pressure Relief Valve from Reliance Valves, is fitted as a safety mechanism to make sure that the water heater doesn’t get overworked. In the event of a heating system over pressurising, it discharges water off the system to ensure a lower outlet pressure.

Secondly, regular maintenance checks should be performed to make sure that a water heater and its respective valves is working effectively and efficiently.

Similarly, if the water heater rises to the challenge of the increased need over the holiday period it is important to ensure that sc­­alding is not a worry. Installing a thermostatic mixing valve, such as Reliance Valves’ Easifit TMV, can minimise the risk of scalding while simultaneously ensuring that the water leaving the outlet is free of potentially harmful Legionella bacteria.

Installers should bear in mind that it is recommended that TMV2 valves found in domestic properties are not suitable for intaking water that is stored at a temperature above 55°C for extended periods of time, as doing so can cause damage to the seals within the valve. But more importantly, it is likely to increase the risk of scalding.

This is where a tempering valve comes into play. The main benefits of a tempering valve are that they allow for water to be stored at high temperatures, where Legionella bacteria cannot accumulate, whilst ensuring that the outlet temperature is safe enough to use, by mixing the hot water with a cold water supply. So why not protect the TMVs you are installing and add peace of mind to homeowners by fitting the Heatguard Tempering Valve from Reliance Valves, which is used in both residential and multi-occupancy buildings and is connected to hot water sources to provide a safe water temperature at the tap, making sure that water does not exceed 55°C when it leaves the outlet.

Frozen outdoor tap

Keeping your outdoor plumbing safe

For buildings with outdoor taps, it is extremely important to keep them safe over the winter period where they are susceptible to bursts and severe wear and tear.

Outdoor taps are fitted with an isolation valve, such as the Floreg Isolation Valve, but it is on the homeowner to actually shut the tap off. Prior to the winter months, the isolation valve should be turned on and the outside tap opened entirely. This will drain the area of pipe between the tap and the isolation valve and therefore prevent damage to the system.

To prevent burst pipes, correct installation is vital. The pipe between the isolation valve and the tap should ideally run down, so that water can properly drain out of the tap and not lie stagnant within the pipe. Plumbers should also consider installing a drain off valve along with the isolation valve, which will drain any water in the pipes and prevent it from freezing during the cold. This can be supplemented with pipe insulation in unheated areas of the house, which will prevent any potential damage to the pipework from the cold.

Some alternative solutions would be to remove the outdoor taps entirely during the winter months, which would naturally prevent freezing from happening, but it would require the resulting holes to be covered, creating additional work. Additionally, although not a very technical solution, simply putting a winter jacket over the outdoor tap reduces the risk of freezing tenfold.

Most problems that come with the winter season can be avoided with careful planning and the correct technology in place. This will make for a longer lasting and efficient home, whilst ensuring that homeowners have comfortable, warm, and safe winters.

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Lee Halstead Headshot

Lee Halstead

Technical Sales Engineer - JG Speedfit/Reliance/SharkBite & JG Underfloor

About the author

As a seasoned professional in plumbing and heating, having earned City and Guilds Plumbing Craft and Advanced Craft certifications in 1991, I have dedicated myself to mastering the craft.

For over two decades, I operated as a self-employed plumbing and heating engineer, serving both residential and new build sectors.

In 2015, I transitioned into the role of a Technical Sales Engineer with RWC. In this capacity, I have leveraged my extensive field experience and technical knowledge to provide invaluable support and build strong relationships with customers. As a spokesperson for RWC, I am thrilled to share my expertise and promote the cutting-edge products and services we offer in the plumbing and heating industry.