Don’t Leave Your Plumbing Out in the Cold This Winter
The good news: preventing frozen pipes is easy - and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Win-win! Another check in the W column: when you are proactive in keeping your pipes safe from winter temperatures, you can avoid expensive repairs.
The cost of fixing burst pipes can stretch upwards of $5000, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. You will also help ensure you don’t lose access to water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.
So, how do you do it?
1. Open Your Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets
This allows warm air to circulate around your pipes. If you keep cleaning chemicals or other hazardous materials there, be sure to put them up and out of the way of children and pets.
2. Keep Your Thermostat at the Same Temperature at Night
You may have to sacrifice a few dollars on your heating bill, but it’s worth it if it keeps your water flowing and your pipes intact. Don’t dial the thermostat back at night when the temperature plunges.
And, if you’re not going to be home for an extended period, set the thermostat at no less than 55℉.
3. Consider Heating Tape
For pipes that are easily accessible, you can apply heating tape. One option is tape that turns on and off when it senses heat is needed; the other plugs in when you think you’re most at risk for issues.
The flip side of this is that, as space heaters, they can be risky. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
4. Keep Your Exterior Doors, Including the Garage, Closed During the Winter
Even if they’re not around the plumbing, these doors still allow cold air to circulate.
An open garage invites in all the frigid winter air. If you have water pipes in your garage, water is susceptible to freeze when the mercury dips below 25-degrees. Keep your door closed and consider adding a safe heat source or insulation to the pipes in your garage.
5. Stay Weather-Aware All Winter
One of the keys to avoiding frozen pipes is to know when to expect frigid temperatures. Follow local meteorologists on social media, check your weather app on your phone, and keep a weathered eye on predicted low temperatures, so you know exactly when to take action to prevent frozen pipes.
6. Drain and Detach Unused Outdoor Plumbing
We discussed winterizing outdoor plumbing more extensively in a previous article. To avoid potential catastrophic plumbing damage, turn off all your outdoor water valves, drain your hoses, and store them away. Leaving a water hose connected to an outdoor faucet any time of the year is a bad idea, but in the winter, it can result in catastrophic damage to your home.
Essentially, if you are not actively using your outdoor plumbing, you can avoid potential problems by decommissioning it for winter.
7. Beware of Your Well
If your water is supplied by a well, it is important to take steps to prevent water from freezing at the well-head. We get a lot of calls from people who aren't aware that the well-head might freeze, which can cause serious piping damage and possibly cause the pump system to fail.
Make sure your well is covered with a weather-tight lid.
8. Keep Your Pipes Warm
If you’re cold, your pipes might be cold as well. Water pipes located in unheated exterior walls, basements, crawl spaces, or garages can be insulated using sleeve-style pipe insulation. This will help ensure that even when temperatures are frigid, the water in the pipes will remain above 32-degrees.
Additionally, it is a good idea to make sure your house is properly insulated, and holes in leaky windows and doors are repaired to prevent draftiness. Proper insulation for pipes will help prevent them from freezing when the mercury dips during winter.
9. Make Sure Your Pipes Aren’t Leaking
Not only can leaking pipes waste thousands of gallons of water every month, but they can create a problem for homeowners when pipes freeze. When water freezes, it expands, so the once tiny leak will become a gaping, bursting hole.
If a leaking pipe freezes and bursts while you are away from home, it can cause extensive water damage and lead to the development of organic growth. A burst pipe is a plumbing emergency that should be dealt with immediately.
10. Let Your Water Drip
When the outside temperature is forecast to dip to near or below 20-degrees, leave water dripping from your faucets. It is a good idea to leave a few faucets dripping on either side of your house, as well as upstairs and downstairs.
There are also some more extensive steps you can take:
- Assume your pipes could freeze! We know what you’re thinking: North Carolina doesn’t get that cold. At least not compared to our northern neighbors. But pipes can be even more vulnerable to freezing because they may not be properly insulated.
- Add insulation to your basement, attic, and crawl spaces. Insulation can cost as little as 50 cents per linear foot, and it provides an excellent return on investment. A few hundred dollars can save you a few thousand - and it’ll prep your home for years of warmth. You’ll also see savings on your heating bill (and your cooling bill in the summer!).
- Seal up drafts, cracks, and openings. Are you feeling the breeze? Filling gaps with caulking, weather stripping, and other insulative materials protect pipes. Again, it’ll prevent heat loss - and sticker shock when you get your utility bill.
What If Your Pipes Freeze?
Uh oh. You get up in the morning, regretfully crawling out of your warm cocoon of blankets, and turn on the tap. Nothing comes out. What do you do?
- Turn on the faucets and leave them on.
- Call Action Service Company for help!
- Do not try to thaw the pipe with a torch or open flame. Did you know that frozen pipes are a major cause of structural fires? Don’t risk it.
- Identify the frozen area if possible: If you can identify the part of your piping that is frozen, you can attempt to thaw it. It is likely the pipes coming from your well-head or pipes in your basement, garage, or crawlspace.
- Thaw your pipes with a space heater: DO NOT USE A BLOWTORCH TO THAW PIPES. We can’t stress enough how dangerous it is to attempt to thaw pipes with a blowtorch. However, a space heater or an infrared lamp can be used to melt the frozen area. Be sure to be careful with your heat source. Don’t put it in an area where it is susceptible to getting wet.
- Leave Faucets Open While You Are Thawing the Pipes: While you are thawing your pipes, leave your faucets open so that water will be allowed to flow as soon as the ice is melted enough to beat the blockage.
- If you want, use a hairdryer on “warm” to try and thaw the pipe. Start close to the faucet and work your way out.
- If pipes have burst and you have flooding, turn off your water valve. Do not touch any electrical appliances in the area. Call for help immediately. This can be a dangerous situation.
- Know the location of your emergency shut offs: If you do have a pipe freeze and burst, you need to be able to immediately locate and turn off your water supply. Your emergency shutoff should be at your meter. You can find out more about what to do during a plumbing emergency here.
It can be difficult to find the precise location of a freeze and to resolve it safely and effectively; to prevent further damage and costly repair bills, call an experienced, certified plumber.
Are you ready for winter? Are your pipes? Taking some simple steps can save you time, money, and hassle! Contact Action Service Company for help with frozen pipes in Statesville, NC.
When to Call Action Service Company, LLC for Help
If you do end up experiencing a pipe freeze this winter, our professional team of plumbers can help. We will respond as quickly as possible to minimize damage and get your water flowing again.