When the temperature drops, it can mean a lot of inconvenience for you and your family. Scraping windshields, bundling up in coats and scarves, and warming up cars are just a few of the winter-weather tasks that many of us aren’t looking forward to. In addition to extra tasks to stay warm, winter can also cause some inconveniences and potential issues with your home. One of the most common winter issues affecting your home is the potential for frozen pipes. When pipes freeze, they can rupture or burst, leading to water damage and expensive repairs. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes and protect your plumbing this winter season.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
To put it simply, when water freezes, it expands. This means that if there is water hanging out in your pipes, it can expand to the point where it puts your whole plumbing system at risk of rupture. It does this by forcing pressure down stream between the faucet and ice blockage, which is why pipes usually burst in places where there is no ice. In addition to freezing temps, wind chill also leads to frozen pipes. Small openings like cracks or holes can let in the cold air and lead to the increased possibility of ice blockages.
The majority of frozen pipe issues occur in interior spaces that are not heated. Common locations are attics, garages, and basements. This is one of the reasons why homeowners who leave town during the winter are encouraged to keep their heat on and not to shut off rooms or portions of the house from heating elements—especially if the weather is expected to dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Yes, frozen pipes can be a big problem—especially in the Midwest where temperatures can change rapidly, and wind chill is always an issue during the winter months. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
- Insulate your pipes. When you look at the cost of pipes bursting, insulation is a small investment. The most common types are foam, fiberglass, and polyethylene. You can also use wadded up newspaper and duct tape in a pinch, though this should only be a temporary solution.
- Open your cabinets. This might sound silly but opening your kitchen and bathroom cabinets throughout the winter keeps warm air circulating and will prevent ice blockages. If you know the temp is really going to drop overnight, open cabinets in susceptible rooms before you go to bed.
- Let faucets drip. We’ve come to believe that dripping faucets are a bad thing, but it’s just the opposite when it comes to preventing frozen pipes. Find the pipes that are exposed to exterior temps and leave them on when the temps drop. Just a small trickle can lead to internal energy and enough heat to keep pipes from freezing up.
- Keep that garage door closed. If your water supply lines go through your garage, it’s important to keep that area as warm as possible this winter. If you leave the garage door open, not only are you inviting thieves in, you’re also leaving your supply lines vulnerable to freezing.
- Set your temp and keep it consistent. Yes, it’s tempting to try to save on utility costs by dropping the thermostat when you’re at work or away for the weekend. However, it might cost just as much to try to warm your home back up after returning and those hours without heat could lead to frozen pipes. Keep your thermostat setting as consistent as possible during the winter to keep your family comfortable and your pipes safe. If you do plan to be away from home for long periods of time, never let the temp drop below 55.
- Open interior doors. Because many pipes are located in cabinets and some can be isolated from the heat, it’s important to keep air flowing as freely as possible during the winter to ensure an even distribution of warmth. When you keep interior doors open, you increase air circulation and reduce the chances of frozen pipes.
The winter brings many inconveniences we can’t do anything about. When it comes to protecting your pipes, however, some proactive steps can lead to big savings. Follow the above tips to keep your pipes moving and, if you do experience issues this winter with your plumbing, give the professionals at ASAP a call!