Few things are worse than a major home-maintenance disaster. Even the mere thought of several home maintenance disasters occurring at once can bring sweat to the brow of anyone interested in keeping their home functional and beautiful all year around.
Come winter and several Americans, particularly those living in regions which experience very harsh winter conditions start fearing the adverse consequences that come with it. One of the most nightmarish experiences to deal with can be that of frozen water pipes.
And although it is too early to start thinking about winters, it is never too early to start educating yourself about how you can tackle the imminent problem of frozen pipes beforehand. At least it's better than being too late to sort out a mess which was preventable in the first place.
Every winter, the normal lives of several families get disrupted and inconvenienced because of frozen water pipes, and everything that follows.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
In cold (and warm) climates, pipes freeze due to the combination of three reasons:
A sudden drop in the temperature
Poor insulation of the pipes
Thermostats set at lower temperatures
Water pipes become prone to freezing when the weather starts to cool down, and soon after the temperature reaches 20 degrees or below. This can happen anywhere if the pipes are exposed to cold air.
We all know that water expands on freezing. This causes the pipes to burst. Both plastic and copper pipes can burst when they freeze, and recovering from this isn't as easy as calling a plumber and getting them fixed in minutes.
Even a small crack in the pipes can emit gallons and gallons of water in a day, which can ultimately result in water wastage, flooding, structural damage and mold growth in your home. This is, however, largely preventable.
Do you dread winters because you know your pipes are going to freeze, making it a huge problem for you and your family to live comfortably? Well, banish those fears as this post presents a few tips that will help you prevent such a situation from occurring ever again.
Here's what to do to keep the pipes from freezing.
1. Try Insulation
If your hot and cold water pipes aren't insulated already, try protecting those in the crawlspace under your house, in the basement, the attic and the exterior walls with snap-on foam insulation. It is important that the foam insulation fits snugly around the pipes without leaving any gaps. You can use duct tape on the joints, and miter foam around the elbows, so that the joints in the pipes are covered completely.
2. Heat the Pipes
Try wrapping the problematic pipes with some UL-approved heat tape, which has a built-in thermostat to deter overheating. Do bear in mind to follow the instructions that come with the heat tape to a T. Doing so should help keep fire hazards at bay.
3. Don't Forget the Sprinklers
Do turn off your sprinkler systems to prevent additional water from getting collected. In case, it has already collected, you can blow compressed air through the irrigation lines to drain it off.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Faucets
Drip both, the hot and the cold faucets, in the kitchen and the bathrooms. Doing so keeps the water movement consistent within the pipes. Apart from that, it also helps in getting rid of the pressure that builds up in the pipes when the water starts to freeze. Setting single-lever faucets in the center also help the hot and cold water lines to drip. Pipes running outside the walls will need special attention.
5. Protect Exterior Faucets
If you have exterior faucets installed around your foundation, you will do well to either cover them with insulated foam covers, or by cutting off the water supply to those faucets. Additionally, you will need to open the faucets to drain the pipes. Installing exterior faucets is important as they prevent water from affecting your foundation walls.
It is important to ensure that your foundation is completely sealed, especially if your house has a crawlspace. Fill in any gaps that you see, irrespective of how minuscule they are, with caulking or expanding foam. Cover or close the foundation vents under your house in extreme cold weather.
7. Laundry Room
As far as frozen pipes are concerned, one of the most susceptible places in your home is the laundry room. If it does have a faucet to drip, you will do well to set your washing machine on warm, and start the fill cycle intermittently for a few minutes and allow the water to run through the pipes.
Simply keeping your garage door shut in the extreme cold weather will go a long way in preventing the pipes from getting completely frozen.
9. Basement and Cabinets
Keep the basement windows and doors tightly closed and weather strip them for extra protection.
If your kitchen and bathrooms have cabinets underneath the sinks, make it a point to keep the cabinet doors open to allow the heat inside the house keep the pipes warm.
10. Watch Out for Leaks
If you use garden hoses, you will have to disconnect and drain them.
If you think the worst may be over when the weather warms up, then you've got something else coming your way. Don't let your guard down and keep an eye out for any dripping faucets. Turn them off. Monitor your water meter to detect any leaks you may have skipped.
Want to know how to thaw your pipes. We'll tell you just how.
1. Shut Off the Mains
Before you try to thaw out the frozen pipes, locate the main valve and shut off the water supply. Do keep the water shut-off key handy.
2. Release the Pressure
Open the faucet of the frozen pipe before allowing it to thaw out. That way the water will flow through the pipe and prevent the building up of pressure within it.
3. Heat Helps
It is possible to thaw out pipes that haven't burst using a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater. You will do well by starting from the interior faucet end of the pipe and gradually moving towards the colder end.
4. Check for Leaks
Once you're done with the thawing process, turn off the supply of water to the faucets and keep checking the water meter of any leaks that you may have missed.
By taking the above mentioned steps, you can certainly save yourself a lot of hassle, money and inconvenience that frozen pipes can cause. Taking the time to put into place certain important measures to protect your home from the potential damage which can be caused by frozen water pipes will go a long way in keeping the frustration of cleaning up, repairing and fearing the loss or destruction of your property.