How to Protect Pipes in Freezing Weather: Before, During and Aftermath
Water expands when it freezes; unfortunately, your pipes don't. When water freezes and expands, it puts pressure on whatever contains it, and with enough pressure, your frozen pipes will burst, causing costly water damage in your home. There are ways to protect pipes in freezing weather though. The key to which is protection and prevention.
HOW TO PROTECT PIPES IN FREEZING WEATHER-PROTECTING YOUR PIPES BEFORE THE COLD HITS
When the water freezes inside your pipes, you are in danger of them bursting, causing a costly mess. Protect your pipes in freezing weather before the temperatures dip below freezing to save yourself from water damage. This is especially important if you're planning to leave your home for an extended period during the winter. An unattended home is a dangerous situation if you don't take the appropriate steps to winterize the house before you leave.
- If you're leaving home for more than a few days, you can and should drain your pipes of water. Draining is done through your main water supply. Open all your faucets, then locate and turn off the main water supply. The water flow from the open faucets should stop after a few minutes. If you have well water, turn off the electrical switch connected to the well to prevent it from pumping water inside. Next, turn off any secondary supply valves, as well as valves to draining appliances including the dishwasher, washing machine and ice maker on the refrigerator. Whether you're leaving for a while or not, disconnect any hoses connected to outdoor spigots and store inside. This prevents any water in the tube from freezing and backing up into the tap and then your pipes.
- Wrap heating tapes around your pipes. Heating tape is a heat cable with enclosed electrical wire that regulates the temperature around plastic or metal pipes when plugged in. You should only use UL-endorsed heating tape. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, which is an organization that performs product safety testing and certification. You can either wrap the heating tape around the pipe or run it along the pipe lengthwise. Heating tape with built-in thermostats add a further layer of protection by preventing your pipes from overheating.
- Ensure you have adequate insulation in common problem areas of the home, including attics, basements, and crawlspaces that contain pipes. Adding insulation to your home also reduces your heating bill. You can also add insulation to your pipes. Insulation alone isn't enough to prevent the pipes from freezing, but it will slow the transfer rate of heat to cold. Wrap the pipes in foam rubber insulation, or you can even use a ¼ inch layer of newspaper in areas that are less exposed to the cold.
HOW TO PROTECT PIPES IN FREEZING WEATHER-PREVENTING YOUR PIPES FROM FREEZING WHEN THE COLD AIR HITS
Protecting your pipes is essential, but after the temperature drops below the freezing threshold, you need to go the extra mile beyond protection to prevent the pipes from freezing. The best form of prevention is reducing the amount of cold air hitting the pipes.
- Keep the garage doors closed, or avoid leaving them open for long stretches of time during freezing weather. Some homes have pipes in the garage that can easily freeze when cold air hits them.
- If you lose power on a cold or freezing day, open the taps in all your sinks and bathtubs to allow a slow trickle of water. Flowing water prevents freezing. This is especially important if there's an expected snow or ice storm during the night. Open the taps before you go to bed as a precautionary method.
- Keep your thermostat at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or above always. If you're not leaving home, it will typically be much higher than 55 degrees, but a minimum of 55 degrees keeps your pipes well above freezing point. It's also important to keep your home the same temperature day and night. It's tempting to lower the temperature at night to save on your heating bill, but you risk causing expensive water damage to your home.
HOW TO PROTECT PIPES IN FREEZING WEATHER-THAWING YOUR FROZEN PIPES
If you've just come home from a more extended time away, or you wake up after a full night of freezing temperatures, turn on all the faucets in your home one at a time. If none of them produce water, you have a frozen pipe somewhere near the main water supply. If some of them do and some of them don't, the frozen pipe is either connected to the offending faucet or is only on one side of the house, typically in an uninsulated wall. If there's a frozen pipe in your home, you need to find it and thaw it fast.
- Keep all the frozen taps open during the thawing process until water starts to flow, then reduce to a trickle.
- Run your hands along the suspected frozen pipes until your hand hits a spot that is extremely cold. This is where it froze. Some plastic and copper pipes will split when frozen, so check your frozen pipe for damage. If you find a split, call a plumber before taking action as you will cause a flood by thawing the pipe.
- Apply heat to the spot with a heating pad, hair dryer or space heater. Never use an open flame source of heat.
- Apply heat until full water pressure returns.
If you are unable to find and/or reach the frozen pipe, or can't thaw it out, call a licensed plumber for assistance. Frozen pipes quickly turn into burst pipes, so act quickly.
HOW TO PROTECT PIPES IN FREEZING WEATHER-THE AFTERMATH OF A BURST PIPE
If your pipes freeze and burst from the pressure, costly water damage will ensue. Protect pipes in freezing weather as much as possible to avoid this situation. But if it still happens, call a certified water damage restoration company right away. The company you choose should hold certification through the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. They will mitigate the remaining water in the affected area and then dry the area out with fans and dehumidifiers. Using a water damage restoration company also reduces the chances of mold growth.
More info? For more information about winterizing your home, check out our other post: HOW TO GET YOUR CAR AND HOME READY FOR WINTER
Call 877-957-5670 to schedule an appointment with an AdvantaCleanwater damage specialist today!