Advice on maintaining your home

Condensation

What is condensation?
Condensation is caused by water forming on a cold surface from damp air.  Everyday activities such as breathing, cooking, washing, and drying clothes are all things that release water into the air in your home.

An average family makes about 20 pints of water vapour in just one day.  This vapour stays in the air in warm rooms but condenses back into water when it touches cold surfaces like windows and bathroom walls.

Condensation or Damp?
It is important to be able to tell the difference between damp caused by condensation, and damp caused by other factors such as rising damp, rainwater, plumbing problems or poor drainage.

Condensation tends to get worse in cold weather.  The other types of damp (apart from plumbing leaks) tend to get worse in wet weather. Condensation tends to form patches of mould with blurred soft edges rather than a stain mark. Condensation occurs when the air and/or surfaces are cold when the moisture content of the air is high.

Why is condensation a problem?
The water formed by condensation can be damaging to your home and your health.  Moisture encourages rot in wooden objects like doors and window frames and spoils decorations.  It can provide ideal conditions for mould especially mildew which causes black patches on walls and fabric.  Some mould spores (the microscopic dust given off as a kind of seed) can also be bad for your lungs.

What do I do if I have condensation?
If there is condensation in your home there are a number of things you can do:

  • Wipe down walls and windows regularly
  • Provide a constant low heat in all rooms during cold weather
  • Make sure windows are opened to allow fresh air into the room
  • Do not block vents or air bricks
  • Keep internal doors closed
  • If your windows have trickle vents at the top, open them
  • Use extractor fans where they are provided in kitchens when boiling saucepans and kettles

Burst or Frozen Pipes

Here you will find useful information on what emergency action to take if your pipes freeze or burst.  Remember to report the repair to SUHA.

Why do my pipes burst?
Once the water in the pipes, (such as heating pipes) stops flowing and the temperature has reached freezing level, the water will freeze.  As the water freezes it will expand.  Due to the copper pipes being rigid they cannot expand to accommodate the expansion of the freezing water.  This will result in a section or sections of the pipe work bursting.  Once the water then begins to thaw the water will leak out of the pipe.

How can I prevent this?
There are a number of ways which this can be prevented.  The vast majority of pipes in your property are located in the roof space and under the sink in the kitchen.  It is important that the temperatures in these areas are kept above freezing.  The following suggestions will help you to do this:

  • Turn the boiler thermostat down and run the heating constantly.  This will keep the water flowing through the pipes and prevent them from freezing.  With the thermostat turned down you will not use a large amount of oil/gas.  Only using the heating sporadically will increase the chance of your boiler/pipes freezing!
  • Lift the trap door from the roof space to allow the warmer air in the house to pass into the loft.  This will help keep the temperature above freezing
  • Turn the light in the loft on if you have one.  A standard light bulb will emit heat into the loft.  Please note that this alone will not stop pipes from freezing but will help
  • Open the cupboard doors under the sink to allow the warm air to pass around the pipes and help keep them above freezing level
  • Open the internal doors in your property to allow the warm air to circulate each room.  Some rooms may have pipes located within the walls that may be susceptible to freezing should the heat in that room not be on
  • Ensure that all radiators are turned on
  • Please ensure that you have adequate oil/gas credit to get through the winter months
  • Ensure you have a form of temporary heating available should you require additional heat in your property.

I have taken all of the preventative measures but still have a burst pipe in my house, what should I do?
In order to minimise any damage from burst pipes you need to locate your stopcock and turn it off.  By doing this you will turn off the cold water supply to your property.  You should then run the taps in the kitchen and bathroom to drain the water from the system thereby minimising the amount of water being leaked into your property.  This may take a few minutes to complete.  The stopcock is usually found in the cupboard under the sink or in some cases can be found in the front or back hall.  Please ensure that you are familiar with the location of your stopcock. Please note that once the water system has been drained you must not use the immersion heater as the hot water tank will be empty which could cause damage to the heater element and/or cylinder.  If possible you should try to contain the leaking water if the burst pipe can be located.  Please note this may not always be possible.  If the water has come into contact with any electrical fittings then the electricity should be turned off at the mains.

Once you have turned the water off phone the Association on 028 38 339 795 during working hours (9:00am – 5:00om Mon-Fri). For calls outside working hours please call our Out of Hours emergency line on 028 90 421 010.  Please be advised that this number is only for emergency cases which require immediate attention.

I don’t appear to have any burst pipes but my water is not working, what should I do?
Most frozen pipes are found in the attic or below the sink (Please note above recommendations to carry out in order to prevent this).  If you believe the pipes in your property are frozen and affecting your water supply you can use a thick towel soaked in warm water to put over the pipe to help thaw it.  Do not use naked flames on the pipes and do not heat them too quickly as this may cause the pipe to burst.

If the problem with your water supply is to do with the main supply you should call NI Water on 08457 440 088.

Help your neighbour
The Association understands that extreme weather conditions may be a difficult time for those who are vulnerable.  If you know someone who may be elderly, disabled or housebound it would be much appreciated if you could call with them from time to time to help prevent the possibility of pipes bursting in their home by showing them how to help prevent the pipes freezing.

I am leaving to go on holiday during the winter months, what can I do to ensure my pipes do not burst?
The Association understands that some tenants may head off on holiday during the winter months.  Unfortunately with no heat on in the property during this time the possibility of pipes bursting in your home will increase significantly.  If you plan to go away on holiday during the winter months please contact the Association and we can arrange for the water systems in your property to be drained.  Upon your return we can then arrange for the water systems to be refilled and balanced.

Abandoned Homes
If you know of a property belonging to the Association which has been abandoned or not being used pleased contact the office with details.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas, making its presence difficult to detect.  It is formed when domestic fuels such as gas, coal, wood and charcoal are burned and by petrol engines.  When fuel burns in an enclosed room, the oxygen in the room is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide.  If carbon dioxide builds up in the air, the fuel is prevented from burning fully and starts releasing carbon monoxide instead.

Prevention of Carbon Monoxide poisoning:

Don’ts:

  • Do not use poorly maintained appliances that burn gas or other fossil fuels
  • Do not burn charcoal in an enclosed space
  • Do not operate petrol-powered engines indoors or in enclosed spaces
  • Do not use gas appliance if they produce yellow flames and deposit soot on walls
  • Do not use un-flued appliances in small closed-up rooms
  • Do not use gas cookers for heating rooms
  • Do not sleep in a bedroom with a paraffin heater or an un-flued gas fire

Dos:

  • Do ensure SUHA contractors gain access to your home to carry out an annual boiler service
  • Do fit a carbon monoxide alarm that meets British or European Standards
  • Do make sure chimneys and flues are clean and not blocked
  • Do make sure that all rooms are well ventilated when an appliance is being used
  • Do use the extractor fan in your kitchen

Energy Efficiency

SUHA is committed to Energy Efficiency and reducing our Carbon footprint.  Below are some examples that will not only help you be more energy efficient, but will also save you money:

  • Don’t overheat your home – by turning your heating down by just one degree you can reduce your fuel bill by 10 percent!
  • If you have a water-filled radiator against an outside wall, attach a reflective panel or kitchen foil to the wall behind it
  • Put a shelf over a radiator to help distribute heat into the room
  • Use a shower instead of a bath – it’s 5 times cheaper
  • If you have a hot water cylinder thermostat, don’t set it higher than 60 degrees centigrade
  • When you buy something like a washing machine look for the’energy label’ – choose the most efficient model to cut your bills
  • Try to use a full load in your washing machine
  • Don’t overfill the kettle – just put in the amount of water you need
  • Put lids on saucepans and use just enough water to cover the food
  • Defrost your freezer regularly, so it doesn’t have to work so hard