When temperatures drop, parched skin and a costly heating bill aren’t the only things to be concerned about. Luckily, keeping your pipes in tip-top shape is easy with these clever tips. You want your home’s vibe to be chill, not chilled-to-the-bone, so knowing what to do when temperatures are low can save you thousands in repairs. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing with these gems of wisdom below.
When are pipes in danger of freezing?
Your pipes are most at risk when the weather outside is frightful and the heating is turned off. Pipes typically begin freezing when temperatures outside dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and stay that low for six consecutive hours. If you live in New York or Colorado or other areas that expect harsh weather each winter, your pipes are most likely built with enough insulation to fend off the frost. However, in places like Texas where temperatures usually never go below freezing things become uncertain when it’s too cold outside.
What happens when pipes freeze?
Once your pipes freeze, there’s potential for two major problems. The first one: No running water. Ice in the pipes can block water flow which means—depending on where the blockage is—you won’t be able to wash your hands, take a bath or even flush the toilet.
The second, more daunting problem, is the bursting of the pipe. If there is water inside the pipe when it freezes, the pressure between the closed faucet and the ice can build to the point where the pipe combusts. Once the pipe is broken, you’re looking at damage to your walls or floors and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in repair costs.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing:
Open cabinet doors. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so, before you leave your home or even go to bed, set your thermostat to at least 50 degrees and fling your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors wide open. Opening up your cabinets helps warm air circulate around the plumbing, thereby preventing a big freeze.
Keep faucets dripping. If you’re expecting severe winter weather, make sure to combine the first trick with other preventative measures such as keeping faucets slightly dripping. This ensures that water flow remains intact.
Insulate exposed pipes. Pipes in areas like basements and attics tend to have little insulation, so making sure they’re covered will save you a world of trouble. Fit your pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to keep the chill out. It’s worth noting that neither of these things provide heat, so you still need to take other preventative measures.
Seal any cracks that let cold air in. Make sure you cover any small holes that let cold air into the house. Pay special attention to areas where pipes run from inside to outside the house, such as dryer vents.
Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Make sure all outdoor hoses are drained and disconnected. Shut all inside valves that supply water to outdoor hose bibs, but leave outside valves open so that any water left in the pipe is able to expand without causing damage.
Keep thermostat temperatures consistent. Sure, you want to save on your bill at the end of the month, but keeping the temperature nice and toasty during the day and throughout the night can save you a costly repair job. You only need to do this for as long as the harsh weather persists.
Winterize your home. If you know you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, The Balance Small Business recommends you winterize your home so there are no issues while you’re away. Shut off the main water valve and turn off the water heater, leave all taps open, flush all toilets to expel as much water as possible and add antifreeze to the toilet bowl so that the toilet doesn’t crack if the remaining water freezes. Also add antifreeze to any sink and tub drains that may have drain traps. Finally, leave the heat in your home set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Thaw Out Frozen Pipes:
Whether you missed a step or you did all the right things and your pipes still froze, the best course of action is to act quickly.
Open the faucet.
As you work to unfreeze your pipe, make sure the faucet remains open so water can flow through. It’ll help the pipe thaw faster.
Apply heat to affected area.
Wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe, use a blow dryer or portable space heater to melt the frozen ice. You can also wrap towels soaked in hot water around the affected area. Don’t use any open flame devices such as blowtorches, kerosene or propane heaters.
Call a professional.
If you can’t get to the frozen pipe or you’re unsure about thawing the pipe yourself, make sure you contact a professional as soon as possible. The sooner they get to it, the more damage they can prevent.
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