How to Prevent Freezing Pipes
If you’ve never dealt with a frozen or burst water pipe, it’s not something that you want to experience. A burst pipe in an upstairs room can result in having to replace all of the walls, ceiling, and flooring in the rooms below. There are some steps that you can take to prevent frozen pipes though, and many are things that you can do on your own.
Get to Know Your Plumbing
This is a crucial tool in both preventing and addressing frozen pipes. Are any of your pipes exposed to outside air? If you have a crawl space, are the pipes in that area easily accessible and protected from cold air? Where are your shutoff valves located? Knowing all of this ahead of time will save you money and headaches in the long run.
Insulating exposed pipes is a simple and inexpensive measure that can save you money in the long run. Pipe insulation is easy to install, and available at any hardware store.
Open things up inside
Instead of keeping interior doors shut, leave them open to allow warm air to circulate easily. This also goes for cabinet doors! That little bit of extra warm air coming through can help you avoid the expense of a burst pipe.
Hot water circulation pump
A hot water circulation pump monitors the temperature of your pipes and will automatically circulate warm water through both hot and cold water lines if temperatures drop below a predetermined setting. This way, homeowners do not need to continuously monitor outside temperatures and individual water lines.
Install heating tape or heating cables
Heating tape is not unlike an electric blanket for your pipes. This is a better solution for sections of shorter pipe that are easy to access, but exposed to air. Some tapes are turned on and off by a sensor, and some must be turned on manually. You’ll need to decide which option would be the best fit for your situation.
Keep the heat on (no lower than 55)
If you’re going to be away for more than a day, it’s best to leave your thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Seal up cracks and holes
Addressing drafts and air leaks isn’t just good for preventing frozen pipes - it’ll also save you money on your heating bill. Seal any cracks or openings around windows, doors, and sill plates. It’s also good to add some extra insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces.
Freeze alarm systems
These systems usually run somewhere around $100, and will send you an alert if the air inside your home drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let your faucets run a little
There is some debate about whether letting water run actually prevents pipes from freezing. However, it will help reduce pressure in the event that a pipe does freeze. It’s also a quick indicator of a frozen pipe if the faucet that was slowly dripping the night before isn’t when you wake up the next morning.
Steps to take if a pipe does freeze
In the event that you do end up with a frozen pipe, there are steps that you should take in order to avoid the pipe bursting.
Step 1: Locate the frozen pipe
Start by opening (or turning on) every faucet in your home. If any produce barely a trickle (or none at all), that’s a sign of a frozen pipe between your water and that faucet. Feel for the coldest pipes - that is likely where the freeze point is located.
Step 2: Shut of the water source
This can either be done on the line leading to the freeze, or by shutting off water to the entire house. If you have more than one frozen point, shutting off the main water line to the house is probably safer.
Step 3: Prepare for water release
If the freeze caused a crack or leak, you might not know about it until AFTER the ice has melted. It’s a good idea to go ahead and gather bowls, towels, rags, buckets, a mop, etc., to deal with flowing water later.
Step 4: Open Faucets
Open any faucets in the house to allow water to drain and reduce pressure buildup. Don’t forget tubs and showers!
Step 5: Warm things up
It’s time to start applying heat to the frozen sections of pipe. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the thing to keep in mind is that it should be slow and warm. NEVER use extreme high heat like blowtorches, propane heaters, or any open flame. You could risk severe damage. Good options are electric heating pads, a hair dryer, warm damp towels, or even a space heater. Direct the heat towards the area nearest to an open faucet so that the melting water has somewhere to go.
Step 6: Slowly restore water flow
One you turn the water back on, check for any leaks. There might have been ice that you weren’t aware of, or places where too much pressure has built up. If you do notice leaks, turn the water back off as quickly as possible and call a plumber!