How Can I Prevent Frozen Pipes?
The weather is starting to get colder, and with many colder days ahead of us, you want to be prepared and prevent plumbing issues by preventing frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can be stressful and expensive. There are several things that you can do to make sure your pipes are protected, and if you aren’t sure about how to proceed or if you want to make sure everything is handled properly for you, you should talk with your regular plumber.
How To Prevent Frozen Pipes
You should inspect your home’s water pipes. You want to make sure that they are properly insulated, so they don’t freeze up. The pipes that have a greater risk of breaking when they freeze up are those in areas that aren’t properly heated, such as your garage, basement, and attic. You can purchase pipe insulation from a home improvement store rather inexpensively, usually for around 50 cents per linear foot.
When you notice the temperature dropping, you need to start doing everything that you can to keep the pipes warm and the water running. The Building Research Council at the University of Illinois conducted research that revealed 20 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature alert threshold for uninsulated pipes in an uninsulated space.
While some of the recommendations for keeping pipes from freezing may go against your beliefs for conserving heat and water, the added costs are much less than what you would end up paying if the pipes burst and you have a hefty repair bill, which according to insurance studies could be $5,000 or more.
- Be sure to close garage doors and keep them closed. This is especially true if there are water pipes in the garage.
- Open bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets to allow warmer air to circulate in and around the plumbing. This is especially effective if your sinks are on an exterior wall. If there are young children in your home, make sure that household cleaners and dangerous chemicals are out of reach.
- Keep cold water dripping from any faucet that gets water from pipes that are exposed to cold air. When water runs through the pipe, even at the slightest trickle, it can keep the pipe from freezing up.
- Maintain a set temperature on your thermostat. Keep it set at this temperature both day and night. Don’t set back the thermostat at night during a cold snap to save some money on your utility bills.
- If you are going on a trip when the weather is cold, don’t shut off the heat. Be sure to set the thermostat at a temperature no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- For the long-term prevention of frozen pipes, add insulation to basements, attics, and crawl spaces to help maintain higher temperatures in those areas. Also, be sure to close off drafts by sealing any openings and cracks around the doors, windows, and at sill plates where your home rests on its foundation.
Thawing Frozen Pipes
If your water pipes do freeze, you will want to thaw them out properly. If the pipe has already burst, when it thaws it will cause flooding. If you suspect the pipe has burst or broken, turn the water off at the main shutoff, which is a valve that is usually where the mainline enters the house near a water meter. If the water is still running, and you cannot detect any burst pipes, you should turn on the faucet.
As you heat up the frozen pipe and the ice plug melts, you want the water to flow through the pipes as it normally would. Although the pipe is cold, running water through it will help melt the ice chunks. You can apply heat to the pipe using either a heating pad, a portable space heater, or an electric hairdryer. You can also try wrapping pipes in towels that have been soaked in hot water. Never use a charcoal stove, propane heater, kerosene heater, blowtorch, or anything that involves an open flame.
Continue applying the heat to the pipes until you have your full water pressure restored. Be sure to check all the faucets to make sure no other pipes are frozen. If you have one frozen pipe, there is a likelihood that you have others that are frozen as well.
If you want to prevent frozen pipes, or if you have frozen pipes that have burst, you should call a local licensed plumber to come out and assess the situation. A plumber can help you limit the damages and prevent further issues.