By David Wilfong
QUESTION: What are some tips for avoiding frozen pipes?
Insulate Your Pipes: Just like walls, pipes can be insulated. Hardware stores sell insulation specifically for pipes, don’t try to put wall insulation on them. Also, you may not necessarily need to insulate every pipe in your home. Steel and copper pipes will be more vulnerable to cold temperatures than plastic ones because metal is a better heat conductor. When you insulate these pipes, you may also find that this solves condensation issues too.
Add Heat Tape: Heat tape is another option to keep your pipes from freezing. This can be a safety risk, so you should read the instructions for heat tape carefully and only use them where and how the manufacturers recommend it. Some tape is meant only for outdoor pipes and some only for indoor pipes.
Turn Up the Heat: Especially if the home is vacant, you should turn up the heat during winter nights. Excess heat can help protect the pipes from freezing and it can be protective of other features, appliances and surfaces in the home too, which are all likely not meant to be frozen.
Look for Foundation Problems: Cracks and gaps in the foundation can let in cold air even though the home is warm. These gaps and cracks are especially a problem if they are right next to pipes, as this will expose the pipes to the coldest air and increase the odds that they will freeze over. You can fill in these gaps and cracks before the cold weather arrives. Ideally, you’d have a professional do this to ensure that the crack is filled for the long-term, or you’ll find yourself out there next winter filling in the same gaps.
Drain Outdoor Fixtures: The outdoor fixtures are more likely to burst than the indoor ones, simply because they are exposed to colder temperatures and aren’t protected by the house. It is a good idea to disconnect the outdoor hoses and drain water from the pipes that lead to outdoor hoses. Though these are internal pipes they will also be colder than the other indoor pipes because they lead outside.
Run the Water: If all else fails, and a very cold night is approaching, then you can run the faucets a little. Just a small trickle for every faucet will keep the water moving, which helps prevent it from freezing. Moving water needs much lower temperatures to freeze than standing water, although it is still possible for them to freeze. And don’t forget to turn off all the taps in the morning.
What If My Pipes Have Frozen?
Well, worse has come to worst and you’re certain you have a frozen pipe. What steps should you take to prevent additional damage? Of course, you should call a professional plumber right away, to get them on the road to you as soon as possible. You should then take the following steps:
- Turn off the water: Turn off the home’s main water valve to stop the flow of water or prevent it when the pipe thaws. There will still be some water in the frozen pipe though, so be prepared.
- Do not use flame: Yes, thawing the pipe is the next step, but using an open flame in the house is dangerous.
- Try a hair dryer: But don’t stand in water while you work.
Mr. Expert Plumbing, Heating & AIr, www.mrexpertplumbing.com, (801)-923-6418
Photo Caption (Credit): It may take a little extra effort to keep the water flowing smoothly during the coldest weather of the year. (Jacek Dylag/Unsplash)