Insulating the mains water pipe/meter

I'm not sure if this belongs under 'Renovation and Construction' but I couldn't see a general house maintenance section.

With temperatures undoubtedly set to plummet in the very near future, I'm a little concerned about my mains water pipe.

It's located down a 3' deep hole on the lane. After the recent heavy rains, I went out to check it and found the hole at least half full of water. After baling as much water and silt out as possible, I can see the pipe where the rainwater feeds in but couldn't see (and therefore access) the exit pipe so could not clear it of silt in case it's blocked. There's a slab of brick on one side of the hole and I think it may be sited behind there.

My fear is that if rainwater accumulates and covers the mains pipe/meter and freezes, I could have a major problem. I'll continue to lay on the ground to bale out as much water as poss after any heavy rain but does anyone have a genius idea how to insulate/protect the pipe from freezing rainwater while still allowing the meter reader to do his job? Or, second scenario, is my paranoia simply getting the better of me and there's actually little chance of a complete freeze up?

Sorry, no flash on the phone. I’ve put some lagging round as much pipe as I can but the lagging nearest the concrete slab is actually only half resting on the pipe as the stopcock is in the way underneath. The bottom of the hole is full of sludge.

Being on a slope, the hole receives a lot of the rainwater. The inlet pipe is just visible at low level on the wall. I've dug around with trowels and skewers but cannot find a corresponding outlet pipe.

You're welcome Valerie! Just be careful using foam insulation anywhere it might get wet as it will expand and make matters worse if it freezes! Foam is good for insulating indoor pipes in dry places! (So I am told!)

Thanks Jo - you actually confirmed what I thought I'd seen somewhere but couldn't quite remember. I do have a large polystyrene box thing that a lamp was packed in so am going to make a "hat" to put over the pipes. That should stop too much cold air dropping down from above. I suppose it will simply float if the hole fills with water. it's also simple enough to lift up for the meter reader. I did buy some foam pipe lagging which I put on the straight sections of pipe but it's such an awkward shape with both the meter and the stopcock sticking up. At least the forecast tomorrow is for slightly above zero with rain!


I hope this helps! I read somewhere recently that the best thing to do (after clearing as much water out of the hole as possible) is to fill it with as much polystyrene as you can. Large pieces of packaging and then those little polystyrene bits they use for small packages to fill the gaps. This apparently insulates the meter the best way, as with other insulation materials, they soak up water, and when it freezes they expand and make the problem worse! I had just thrown away a load of polystyrene packaging from Christmas when I read this article, so haven't done mine yet... any offers of unwanted polystyrene from members living nearby gratefully received!!! Good luck!

I suppose the one blessing is that I can go out and check on water levels daily if need be (if it was a holiday home I'd be seriously panicking) if a big freeze does come on. Then, if the water is only a few inches deep with the surface level with the pipe/meter, I can do a quick bale out in case the surface freezes. There must be an outlet somewhere - let's hope with the rain due this weekend it manages to clear itself a little.

We have the same problem with our water meter - the inspection area fills with deep water. It was no problem last year in the big freeze. If the water is really deep only the surface will freeze anyway (like a pond) and if it's deep in the ground the ground warmth will keep it from freezing (which is why your supply pipes are OK in the ground).

It's the pipes that are above ground you need to worry about - wrap them well and protect them from the cold as best you can. Any not in use, such as hosepipe supply etc, drain them.

I can't help Val but I did notice our Mairie published a notice in their New Year Newsletter telling us to protect against frost. I'm going to be worrying about it now until March!