British Gas boilers are designed to be environmentally friendly units that provide heat and hot water to a home efficiently. Unlike outmoded boilers that allowed exhaust gases to escape into the air through the flue, condensing boilers recover these gases through a heat exchanger so that they can warm the incoming flow of water to the boiler. During this process, an amount of water vapor is produced which then condenses into liquid form and is flushed out of the boiler system through a small drainage pipe.

Occasionally, the water in the drainage pipe (or, condensate pipe) will freeze during extremely cold temperatures. As a safety precaution, these boilers are designed to shut down until the line is free again. Luckily, there are a couple quick and simple ways to handle the problem and get things up and running again.

A homeowner who is not sure where the condensate pipe is located on their system would be better off calling an engineer qualified to work with British Gas boilers to alleviate the problem. Otherwise, the first thing that must be done is locate where the pipe is frozen and apply a steady heat source.  

Applying a hot water bottle is commonly recommended to thaw a frozen pipe; or, in a pinch, a heat wrap that is used to alleviate back pain can work just as well. Heat wraps are actually activated by air and may provide warmth longer than a hot water bottle. Some homeowners try to speed the process by also applying warm air with a hairdryer.

On the other hand, if it is cold enough outside to freeze the drainage pipe, it may be easier to pour hot water over the pipe to get things moving quicker. Warming water on the stove or in the microwave in a temperature-safe container is the suggested approach for this. However, boiling water should never be used or homeowners risk cracking the drainage pipe and creating further damage.

Homeowners should also never attempt to disconnect a condensate pipe or thaw it from anything but ground level. Doing otherwise may cause a backflow of water to the boiler system. As inconvenient as the situation may be, impatience typically results in not being able to get a boiler system to reignite without a service call.

Once the condensate pipe is thawed, the key is taking steps to making sure it doesn't happen again. In ideal situations, homeowners will have the condensate pipes of their British gas boilers rerouted inside the home with the rest of its plumbing. Since that is not always possible, other options are:

* weatherproofing the external pipe with insulation

* installing a trace heat system

* increasing the diameter of the external pipe to 32mm

* rerouting the external pipe so that it takes the shortest possible route to the drain, is sharply sloped and has as few bends as possible

Even though the ideal time to complete winter maintenance is before cold temperatures hit, homeowners don't have to be left out in the cold. A few commonsense tricks are all it takes to keep British Gas boilers fully functional all winter long. Even a new boiler should be properly maintained so make sure that your condensate pipe is properly insullated; on its external pipes especillay.