Tips to Keep Frozen Pipes from Happening in Your Home

Take it from someone who knows – frozen pipes aren’t the absolute worst thing that can happen to your home this winter. And there are steps you can take to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place. However, if those steps aren’t taken, the worst is much more likely to happen. And what’s the worst that could happen, you ask? Well, as a result of frozen pipes that aren’t taken care of, you’ll end up with bursting pipes. In short, that is MUCH worse.

Here’s the basic science: when water freezes, it expands. This means that when the water inside your pipes freezes and expands, the pressure of this process causes them to eventually burst. And when that happens, it’s no easy fix. Even if they’re frozen when they burst, eventually, the temperature will warm, and then the dreaded leaking or flooding begins.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), the average cost to repair burst pipes could be more than $5,000 per incident. Furthermore, they say frozen pipes are, “…one of the leading sources of property damage when the temperature drops.” Don’t be that person.

Not to worry, though. The worst is NOT to come if you take the correct precautions this winter. Here are some facts and tips to keep in mind while you prepare for winter’s freezing temperatures.

What Pipes are Most at Risk in your Home?

Alright, so you’re not a plumber. That being said, you have seen the pipes in your basement, under your sink, or lining the outside of your home. According to this insurance company, the pipes that are at the most risk of freezing and bursting are the ones “most exposed to the elements”.

Examples of these frozen pipes include:
  • Outdoor hose hookups and faucets
  • Swimming pool supply lines
  • Lawn sprinkler lines
  • Pipes running against exterior walls with little or no insulation

There are also certain areas in the home that pose a large risk for frozen pipes. Be sure you’re checking on the unheated areas in your house like the basement, attic, garage, or crawl spaces. Don’t forget to check the pipes in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets, too.

Now that you know where you should be checking, let’s talk about the steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes that go beyond monitoring them.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Frozen Pipes

So now you know that it’s important to check the pipes in all areas of your home before winter hits. You also know which areas tend to cause trouble. Now let’s talk about protecting the pipes before they have a chance to freeze in the first place.

Here we will cover:
  • Great ways you can protect your pipes from freezing
  • Proactive actions to take when the temperature is dropping
  • How to check for (and thaw) frozen pipes

Step One: Seal the exterior and interior places (and the pipes) in your home

Per the IBHS guide, it’s best to do these things before it gets too cold. Be sure to seal all cracks, holes, windows, doors, and other openings on exterior walls. Seal these gaps with sealant, caulk, or insulation to prevent cold air from penetrating the wall cavity. Here’s a video on how to stop cold air leaks in winter that is worth checking out too.

As for the interior portion, insulate and seal attic penetrations such as partition walls, vents, plumbing stacks, and electric and mechanical chases. Be sure to pay special attention to the most vulnerable pipes and insulate them.

If you live in an area that is especially prone to freezing temps during the winter, you may want to, “…consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.”

“Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a ‘pipe sleeve’ or installing UL-listed ‘heat tape,’ ‘heat cable,’ or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspapers can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing”, recommends the Red Cross.

Or, like our dear mother often does, wrap your pipes with cloth, such as old t-shirts or worn, thinning towels, etc. It may seem tedious, but it’s better to spend the time doing this rather than coming face to face with the damage burst pipes will cause if the issue isn’t addressed.

Step Two: During the winter, be sure to do the following

Pay attention to the weather report. If you know it’s going to be below freezing, you’ll be better prepared. The American Red Cross also reminds us to take extra precautionary steps – after all, it can’t hurt, right? During those severe cold snaps, keep exterior doors closed if there are water supply lines in there.
If the kitchen or bathroom pipes are located near exterior walls, leave the cabinet doors open and use a fan to circulate the warmer air around the pipes. And when the weather is especially freezing, let the cold-water drip from the faucet. “Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing”, notes the Red Cross.

This company also recommends you install backup power to, “…provide [and] ensure heat to the building…”, if the power were to go out, and, if able, to, “…install a monitoring system that provides notifications if the building’s temperature dips below a pre-determined number.”

By consistently keeping your house warm (AKA keeping the heat on 24/7) when the weather is predicted to be especially cold, you’re protecting the vulnerable plumbing. Also, if able, they recommend you, “…monitor fire protection sprinkler systems [by] using a central station to provide early detection of a pipe failure and heat [you’re] unheated sprinkler control rooms.”

Taking these precautionary measures will ensure your pipes remain intact and will protect them from freezing over.

Step Three: If your pipes are frozen, you will need to thaw them ASAP

The IBHS suggests, “…turning on each faucet (both hot and cold). If there’s only a trickle of water or, even worse, there’s no water coming out at all, then you should suspect a frozen pipe. The source of the freeze is most likely near an exterior wall or where the main water supply enters your home, so leave the faucet on and use a blow dryer (never an open flame torch or other devices) to help heat the pipe until there’s a steady flow of water.”

Another way to thaw pipes is to apply heat to the frozen section by using an, “…electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, [or] a portable space heater, or [even] by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.” It’s safe to assume that, “…if one pipe freezes, others may freeze [or have already frozen] too,” states the Red Cross.

So be sure you’re checking as often as you can, especially when it’s really cold outside.

No Need to Fear the Winter Coming Here!

Of course, if you’re worried you haven’t done enough, or if you’ve tried thawing your pipes and it just hasn’t helped, it’s time to call your South Jersey plumber.

And the Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing team is here for you if this happens!

You can count on our licensed, fully insured team of professional plumbers to save the day. We have emergency services and guarantee a quick response to your plumbing needs.

We do, however, recommend you call us before winter arrives in full force.

To prevent costly repairs and property damage should your pipes burst, Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing highly recommends regular plumbing maintenance. Professional inspections help catch the minor issues before they turn into costly malfunctions. Remember, a plumber may be able to, “…help with relocating certain pipes so you can prevent them from freezing in the future”.

Before winter comes knocking at your door, let us do the knocking first! Call us today to schedule your inspection. You’ll be glad you did, and your home will be too.

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