If you and your loved ones are planning to travel over the river and through the woods all the way to Grandmother's house this holiday season, you might want to take a few preventative measures at home before you start packing up the sleigh.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recently reported that plumbing supply failures are the leading source of residential water losses. Of the claims analyzed, 18% were a direct result of frozen pipes; and those frozen pipe-related failures resulted in losses roughly twice as severe as those caused by manufacturer-induced failures. This is especially important around the holidays. Due to holiday travel, families are away from home for longer periods of time, exasperating the situation by allowing water damage.
Why do pipes freeze?
When the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees (Fahrenheit), water pipes in homes with little or no insulation are likely to freeze and break. In fact, a one-eight-inch crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water per day, destroying floors, furniture, appliances, and personal items.
What can you do to prevent frozen pipes?
- Insulate pipes. Insulate hot and cold water pipes in the crawlspace under your house as well as in the basement, attic, and exterior walls with snap-on foam insulation. Make sure the foam insulation fits tightly without gaps. Apply duct tape to joints in insulation, and miter foam around elbows, so the joints in pipes are completely covered.
- Heat pipes. Consider wrapping problem pipes with UL-approved heat tape that has a built-in thermostat to prevent overheating. Follow the instructions that come with heat tape carefully to keep from creating a fire hazard.
Check out! How to Insulate Pipes, our step-by- step- video for instructions. Don't forget! to share with friends and family members this Holiday Season!
- Drip faucets. Drip both hot and cold water at faucets in kitchen and bathroom. This not only keeps water moving through the pipes, but relieves built-up water pressure in the pipes if they should freeze. Set single lever faucets in the center so both hot and cold lines drip.
- Waterproof basements and crawl spaces. Close exterior basement and crawlspace windows, doors, and other entryways.
- Check for leaks. Once the weather has warmed up, turn off any dripping faucets and monitor the water meter for any unseen leaks.
What if the pipes are already frozen ... how do you thaw frozen pipes?
- Cut off water. Locate the water main cut-off valve, and have a water cut-off key handy.
- Open faucets. Open the faucet the pipe runs to before thawing a frozen pipe to allow water to flow through the pipe and relieve any built-up pressure in the pipe.
- Heat frozen pipes. Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electrical heat tape, or portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that haven't burst. Start from the interior faucet end of the pipe and work your way toward the colder end of the pipe.
More info? For information on how to avoid freezing pipes, check out our other post: Frozen Pipe Prevention.