Frozen water pipes are a common problem during those frigid New England winters. Freezing can cause a pipe to burst — a crack as small as 1/8″ can allow more than 250 gallons of water to escape in only one day. The flooding can result in thousands of dollars of structural damage to your home. The failure to clean up the water promptly and efficiently can also create the potential for mold growth. Taking steps to prevent frozen pipes can save you a lot of hassles — and money.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Freezing pipes become an issue when the temperature reaches 20 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature drops, any residual water inside your home’s pipes will freeze and expand, which causes an increase in pressure inside the pipe. When the pressure gets too high, the pipes are no longer able to withstand it, which leads to bursting.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Rather than having to deal with frozen pipes after the fact, there are several ways you can keep them from freezing in the first place:
- Install insulation: You can purchase inexpensive insulation at your local home improvement or hardware store, which you can use to wrap the pipes. Focus on the areas of your home where the piping does not receive warm air from your heating system. Examples include basements, attics, kitchen cabinets and crawlspaces.
- Seal leaks: Check for any leaks near your home’s piping system that could expose it to cold air and seal them by applying caulk. Typical areas of leakage include around dryer vents and electrical wiring.
- Allow a slow trickle of water: When the temperature approaches the 20-degree threshold, turn on the faucet to allow a slow, steady drip of warm water. Even a small trickle is often enough to prevent frozen pipes.
- Disconnect hoses: At the start of winter, remove all outdoor garden hoses and turn off the valve that generates their water supply. This will help to eliminate any residual water in the piping just inside your home.
- Manage your thermostat closely: If you’re like many people, you lower your thermostat when you go to bed or leave for work in the morning to save energy. Consider keeping the temperature at a higher level during a cold stretch — the warmer air can stop pipes from freezing. Remote thermostats make this even simpler to handle by having the ability to adjust the temperature on your smartphone.
- Keep the garage door closed: An open garage door increases your home’s exposure to cold air. This could cause your pipes to freeze, especially those that run through the garage’s ceiling or behind its walls. One warning: to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t forget to open the garage door when allowing your car to warm up on a frigid morning.
Frozen Pipes: What to Do
If you turn on the tap during a cold spell and only a trickle of water comes out, it likely means you have a frozen pipe. To thaw the pipe, allow the water to run, if possible, as this can help to break up the ice jam. If you’re able to locate the frozen area in the water line, try wrapping a heating pad or a towel soaked in hot water around the pipe. You can also use a hair dryer or space heater to warm the pipe.
If the pipe has already burst, turn off the water supply at the main shutoff valve. Use a pipe cutter to remove the damaged section and replace it with new piping. Consider calling a licensed plumber if you’re not sure you can tackle the job yourself.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes While You’re Away
Don’t forget about your pipes if you’re planning to travel over the Christmas holidays or escape to a warmer climate for vacation — or if you own a summer home in Nantucket or the surrounding areas that’s unoccupied in the winter. Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees before your leave, and shut off and drain your home’s water system. If possible, arrange for someone you trust to stop by to monitor the temperature, especially during colder weather.
Your home’s security system can also help to prevent frozen pipes while you’re gone. A system equipped with low-temperature sensors can alert you when the temperature drops to a predetermined level. If your home has smart technology, you can then use your smartphone to raise the thermostat remotely — even if you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away!
Contact Wayne Alarm Systems for more advice on how to make sure your pipes don’t freeze — and how your home’s security system can help to prevent frozen pipes.