(Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted in December 2013. It has been updated and additions made to reflect current and accurate information.)
For the most part, the temperatures have been fairly mild as we get ready for the official start to Winter in the next couple of weeks. With mild temperatures dominating our days, we may not be prepared if the temperature starts to drop. Freezing pipes can be a big problem in your home if we get a sudden, unexpected cold snap…
When water freezes, it expands, causing stress and strain on your pipes. If the integrity of your plumbing is compromised, that could mean cracks, leaks, or worse – burst pipes. Make sure you’re prepared for freezing temps this year.
1. Watch the Weather. While water can freeze at 29°F, but the water in pipes has a lower threshold. If you’re inching towards 20°F, it’s time to worry about bursting.
2. Drip, Drip, Drip. Contrary to popular belief, leaving the faucet dripping does not actually stop the water from freezing. But, it can stop a pipe from bursting. Turning on your faucet opens a valve that relieves the water pressure that would normally pressure a pipe to burst. It doesn’t have to be much, even the slowest drip will relieve pressure!
3. Keep Your Pipes Warm. Subfreezing temps are unpleasant for almost everything, including your pipes. If it’s going to be a cold night and you have plumbing exposed to the elements, you may want to insulate them.
4. Seal the Outside of Your Home. Checking your space for air leaks and cracks is also a great way to boost heating efficiency in the winter. Seal with caulk or insulation.
5. Know Your System. Every home plumbing system is different. Do you have pipes in an attic? Does your home have a crawl space? You may need to take extra precautions to insulate your pipes from the cold.
6. Get to Know Preventative Options. You can use more than just a t-shirt to wrap your pipes! Options include pipe sleeves, heat tape, heat reflector lamps, and actual cables that wrap around pipes to heat them in the winter.
7. Let Warm Air In. On cold nights open up the cabinet doors under your sinks to all the warm air in your home to circulate under the sink.
8. Disconnect the Garden Hose. Don’t risk the integrity of your outdoor valves! Disconnect before freezing weather arrives.
9. Traveling for the Holidays? Avoid frozen pipes by shutting off and draining the water in the pipes.
10. Locate Your Shutoff Valve. Knowing where your main water shutoff valve is crucial, especially in the wintertime. If you experience burst pipes, shutoff the water immediately.
11. Monitor Water Pressure. Inconsistent water pressure can be a sign of an existing plumbing problem and might mean that your pipes are more at risk to have freezing problems. Keep an eye on your water pressure to ensure that your pipes are well-protected.
When frozen pipes burst, there is a splashing, hissing, or a thumping noise. There may be an accompanying odor caused by the water damage in a strange area of your home’s structure.
Pipe Thaw: What You Should Know
Frozen pipes require a delicate thawing process and will need to be inspected for any cracks or splits from the expanding water by a professional.