Winter weather can cause ice to tear open a water supply line. The real disaster often occurs after the ice melts and water flows freely into your home. That flow of water can potentially cause serious damage, resulting in thousands of dollars in repair work.
Why do pipes burst in the first place?
As water turns to ice, it takes up more space and places the pipes under increasing internal pressure, until they burst. The cost of repairing and cleaning up water damage averages $2,000, which can be avoided by common sense and proper prevention measures.
Pipes in exterior walls, crawl spaces, or outdoor faucets are especially prone to bursting when exposed to cold temperatures for any length of time. There are several steps you can take to keep pipes from freezing, thus avoiding costly damage.
Which pipes are priority?
Some pipes are more liable to freeze and burst under pressure mainly because of their location in your home. Choosing which pipes to locate and protect first, is the highest priority. Exposed pipes in parts of your home without heat, pipes in exterior walls, and any plumbing or pipes on the exterior facing side of your home.
Temporary fixes to prevent freezing.
The first sign of ice forming in pipes is reduced flow at faucets. If the flow slows to trickle during a cold snap, or if you suspect your pipes are vulnerable, take action. Here’s how to make sure pipes don’t freeze:
1. Insulate your pipes
Make sure your home also has adequate insulation, especially along exterior walls and in crawl spaces. Putting some additional insulation in the walls, attic, or along the overhanging eaves of your home is an inexpensive way to avoid the costly water damage associated with pipe bursts.
2. Keep the heat on
Even if you leave on vacation in the cold weather, you should keep the thermostat in your home set to somewhere around 55 degrees to prevent frozen pipes. However, this precaution won’t always be enough to ensure water sitting in your pipes won’t freeze during severe cold snaps.
3. Let the faucet drip
A tiny trickle from faucets protects pipes in two ways: First, it prevents pressure from building up inside pipes. Secondly, it creates a constant flow of water through pipes which will make freezing much less likely.
4. Thaw carefully
Determine which pipes are frozen. If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, chances are the frozen pipe is nearby. Get under the sink to look for telltale frost on the pipes or bulges in the waterline.
Open the faucet. In the same way you turn on faucets to prevent pipe freeze and to keep water moving, you can turn the faucet on to relieve pressure. Just be sure to turn on both cold and hot water full throttle while you’re attempting to thaw the pipes.
Apply heat or warmth starting at the faucet. If you can access the pipes you suspect are frozen, start at the faucet and work your way down with a gentle heat source (not an open flame) such as a hairdryer, small ceramic space heater, hot towels, or even electric heating cables. Even if you get a few sudden gushes, don’t stop applying heat until full water pressure is restored.
5. Call a plumber
If the pipe has cracked, has already burst, or is behind a wall, you should contact a plumber immediately. Getting leaks addressed promptly by a professional is particularly important to prevent further damage and to stop the spread of mold.
Have more questions?
How do I keep pipes from freezing without heat?
Winter storms can knock out power and leave homeowners stranded without heat. As temperatures inside the house begin to fall, your pipes could run the risk of freezing. Use the shutoff valve to cut off all water supply to your home, then open the faucets to let the water drain from the pipes. You can also flush toilets and use denatured alcohol in the bowls to prevent the traps from freezing. If the power outage continues for several days, drain your furnace boiler by turning off the emergency switch and releasing water through the valve at the bottom.
How do I heat my pipes with electric heat cable?
Electric heat cable is good protection during cold spells. A thermostat switches on the heat only when the temperature drops, so heat cable won’t waste electricity when it isn’t needed. But if you need to protect lots of pipes for long periods, heat cable is an expensive solution.
At what temperature do pipes freeze?
Water freezes at 32℉ so you should begin preparing your home for winter as soon as nighttime temperatures reach this threshold. Turn off outside spigots and water sources, drain hoses and store them, and insulate exposed pipes before subzero weather arrives. Your pipes probably aren’t in danger of freezing until temperatures drop below 20 degrees, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
In the event that your pipes do end up frozen and burst, causing water damage, contact us immediately @ 919-301-8320 for our water damage remediation services. That way you can keep your home safe, happy, and healthy!