How To Prevent Frozen Water Pipes & What To Do If Your Pipes Freeze
How to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes & What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze
When winter is at its worst it can mean frozen and burst pipes that lead to thousands of dollars in repairs and water cleanup services. Winterizing your home is a relatively cheap and easy way to ensure your plumbing is in good working order all winter long. Here are a few best practices:
Protect your plumbing from frigid temperatures with the following steps:
- Purchase insulation tubes from your local hardware store
- Wrap the exposed pipes with pipe insulation tubes
- Turn faucets to a slow trickle when temperatures fall below freezing
- Open cabinets beneath sinks to let warm air reach the pipes
- Keep furnace on and set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing, but for best results, keep your house even warmer.
It’s a good idea to disconnect garden hoses and turn off water supply valves leading to outdoor faucets, then open outside the outside faucets to drain the lines. If your home is not equipped with isolating exterior faucet shutoff valves, cover all outdoor hose bibs with foam insulation kits. These steps will protect your outdoor faucets from freezing and prevent damage to connecting indoor water supply pipes.
Insulating pipes that are exposed to cold winter temperatures is one of the easiest ways to protect your home from winter plumbing problems. They are inexpensive, easy to fit over pipes, and can be purchased at hardware stores or home centers.
Cover all exposed water supply pipes that run outside of the heated portion of your home and wrap with a generous amount of duct tape to keep the insulation in place. Vulnerable water pipes can be found primarily in attics, basements and garages. But, also beneath pier and beam homes and trailers.
HEAT TAPE FOR PIPES
Thermostat-controlled heat cable, also called heat tape for pipes, is an ideal way to keep exposed pipes too warm to freeze. Essentially, the cable serves as a pipe heater. Simply plug it into an electrical outlet and wrap it tightly around the pipe or run it straight along the length of the pipe and tape it into place. Remember to remove heat tape from the pipe when the weather improves, or it will present a fire risk.
Winter weather puts a lot of extra pressure on your water heater, especially if the water heater is in the garage, a common practice in many southern states. Consider having Roto-Rooter perform routine maintenance on your water heater to extend its service life.
If your washing machine is in the garage or other unheated area, turn off the water supply lines leading to the appliance and disconnect the hoses.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PIPES FREEZE
When the weather turns extremely cold, water supply pipes are prone to freezing and bursting. Plumbers often tell you how to prevent pipes from freezing but they don’t always tell you what to do if your pipes have already frozen. Here are some steps you can take to remedy frozen pipes safely. If you follow these tips you may be able to avoid or minimize serious damage:
• Shut-off the water main leading into the structure and open (not wide open, just open) any faucets connected to the pipe. This will reduce pressure on the frozen pipes and minimize flooding if the pipes burst. This is particularly important if you are going to be away from home.
• If the frozen pipe is exposed and visible, use a hair dryer or space heater to thaw the ice blockage. Do not use an open flame. Keep space heaters far enough away from walls and flammable materials to avoid fire risk!
• Examine exposed pipes for leaks. Even with the water main turned off, there will be enough pressure in the pipes to reveal leaks after the pipe has thawed.
• Contact a plumber equipped with professional pipe-thawing equipment to get your pipes flowing again, avoid damage, and if necessary, to make repairs to damaged pipes.
• Even if no leaks are found, a plumber should examine pipes that experienced a hard freeze. Some pipes may need to be replaced since the material has experienced stretching and fatigue, putting the pipes at risk for future failure.
• If you have PEX pipe tubing instead of copper or plastic water supply pipes, just keep an eye on it. PEX tubing is designed to withstand freezing and can expand up to three times its normal diameter without sustaining damage.
Keep in mind when the pipes thaw, they may begin spewing water inside walls if you experience a burst pipe. The resulting flooding can quickly cause serious property damage. Most Roto-Rooter locations provide water damage cleanup services as well as plumbing services so we can offer one stop service to home and business owners dealing with all problems associated with frozen pipes.