Staying warm in freezing weather isn’t the only concern a home owner should have when temperatures drop. Preparing your pipes for a winter freeze is essential and not doing so can cost you from several hundreds of dollars to thousands.
Why Pipes Freeze
When temperatures drop below the freezing point, or 32 degrees, the water that is left in your pipes will begin to freeze and, consequently, expand. With little to no room for the water to expand, the pipe will burst, leaving a mess when the water unfreezes. This is very similar to leaving a soda can in the freezer for too long. Once the liquid inside has no more room to expand, the can eventually gives, causing it to crack or explode. The same thing happens to your pipes. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
Here are a few precautions you can take before freezing temperatures roll in to prevent your pipes from freezing:
Disconnect any water hoses that are attached to outdoor faucets and install a pipe cover.
Open all kitchen and bathroom cabinets that are underneath any faucets to allow the warm air in the house to reach the pipes.
Keep the temperature in your home above 68 degrees.
Identify the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater. Knowing where these are located will help you turn off the water supply to your home faster in case a pipe bursts or freezes.
Wrap pipes closest to exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape.
Allow water to slightly drip through a freeze to keep the water actively moving through the pipes
If you plan on leaving your home for an extended period of time, shut off the water to your home and drain all of the remaining water from the pipes. To do this, simply open all faucets and flush the toilets to drain the remaining water.
In Case of Emergency
If your pipes freeze, there are a couple of steps you can take in order to thaw them.
Locate the closest area to the faucet that is frozen; this is where you will begin thawing.
Get a blow dryer and begin blowing the warm air directly on the pipe. If you do not have access to a blow dryer simply boil a pot of water to soak towels in. Wrap the towels around the pipe directly on top of the frozen sections. If the pipe bursts, immediately turn off the water supply to the house and call a plumber for further assistance.
Preparing your home and your pipes for a freeze is essential to maintaining a home and keeping unnecessary costs down. The costs of repairing a broken pipe can add up quickly. There can also be secondary costs and repairs that can occur depending on where the broken pipe is. These secondary costs and repairs can be things such as replacing a broken faucets or even drywall repairs, not to mention the cost of the plumber. Be sure to take these precautions every time freezing temperatures are anticipated. Some people choose to cover their pipes all throughout the winter to avoid the chance of forgetting. Either way, it is better to prepare for a freeze than to face the damages and costs of a broken pipe.