Frozen pipes can lead to big problems for homeowners, not the least of which is the increased likelihood the pipes will burst if left unattended. A crack as small as 1/8 of an inch can leak up to 350 gallons of water per day. Cracks also lead to structural damage to the home, and creating a huge risk of mold.
These are the steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing in your home:
Identify Potential Problem Areas
Pipes along the exterior walls of your house, in your basement or crawl space, or outside the home (swimming pool and/or sprinkler lines as well as those to outdoor spigots) are the most vulnerable to freezing, but there are things you can do to prevent them from freezing.
Drain the proper amount of water from the swimming pool and underground sprinkler system supply lines.
Remove all garden hoses, drain, and store them throughout the winter weather season.
Winterize outdoor kitchens. The process for water pipes involves closing shutoff valves to the sinks then draining and disconnecting the hot and cold water lines.
Close indoor supply valve to outdoor water supply lines. Then open the valves to those lines so that all remaining water will drain. Leave the valve open. This prevents water remaining in the pipe from breaking the pipe if it should expand.
Install pipe sleeves and other insulating products on all outside, crawlspace, and basement pipes – any pipes located in unheated areas (attic, garage, under cabinets, etc.). Consider installing pipe sleeves on interior pipes located along exterior walls.
Seal leaks to exterior walls that are near pipes. This leaks can happen near wiring, dryer vents, and even the pipes themselves. Insulation and caulk are ideal for filling in these gaps.
These steps will help you prepare, in general, for winter weather. When the temperature really dips, you may need to consider a few additional steps for added protection against freezing pipes.
Cold Weather Action
When cold fronts approach that place your home at risk for frozen pipes, consider the following preventative steps.
Open cabinet doors beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks. This allows warm air to circulate beneath the cabinet and reduces the risks of the pipes freezing.
Allow a trickle of cold water to run through the pipes while the weather is extremely cold. This helps to prevent the water in the pipes from freezing.
Temporarily suspend your home’s use of lower nighttime thermostat settings in order to keep the air temperature consistent all day and night.
Know where your main water shutoff valve is that if a pipe does burst you can quickly shut off the water and minimize the damage.
What to do When Your Pipes Freeze
These are all good tools for preventing pipes from bursting in winter, but you also need to know how to respond quickly if they do burst. The first part of the process has already been identified. You need to
take swift action to cut off the flow of water into the home.
The next step involves opening the faucet. It has to be the one that correlates with the frozen pipe as this will help to release pressure that may have built up within the pipe.
Then, inspect the pipe to make sure it hasn’t burst. If not, heat the pipe with a hair dryer, electric heating pad, or space heater. Do not use open flames and make sure there are no flammable materials nearby while heating the pipes.
Prevention is always the best cure when it comes to freezing pipes. A few hours each year shoring up your pipes for winter can save thousands of dollars in damage and many more hours of cleanup later.