Every winter, research shows that over 250,000 US families suffer water damage in at least one room of their home because of frozen pipes. The winter weather affects plumbing systems in both cold and warm regions of the US and affects both copper and plastic pipes.
A tiny crack in your water pipes can discharge hundreds of gallons of water, causing serious structural damage and creating breeding grounds for mold. Use the pro tips we share below to keep your pipes from freezing and learn what to do if your pipes freeze.
Tip #1: Maintain The Heat!
It is critical to keep your pipes at suitable temperatures, even during the winter. You should strive to maintain temperatures at 20°C (68°F) by keeping your thermostats at the same temperature throughout the winter.
Raise the temperatures a little more to combat the cold during extreme cold. You can invest in electric heat cables, which have a thermostat that comes on when temperatures go low. Remember to leave your heaters running even when away, whether on vacation or at work.
Tip #2: Let The Faucet Drip!
A constant trickle of hot and cold water may be all you need to protect your pipes from freezing. Running water can still freeze, but this constant drip relieves the pressure of ice blockages to prevent bursting.
Ensure your taps are dripping warm water, preferably from faucets connected to the exterior walls. Choose a faucet located farthest from the water source, so that water flows through the entire system.
Tip #3: Keep Your Doors Open!
While exterior pipes are often well-insulated, interior pipes may be bare or only slightly insulated. In winter, keep cabinet and vanity doors open to allow heat to circulate to the pipes under the sinks or near appliances, especially pipes closest to the exterior walls of the home.
Tip #4: Seal up Any Cracks or Holes!
Seal up any cracks or holes in your interior and exterior walls and insulation. At the start of winter, look for leaks around the dryer pipes and vents, electrical wiring, and basements, garages, and attics. You can seal them with caulk or another insulative material.
Tip #5: Add Extra Insulation!
Apart from insulating the house itself, add pipe insulation to exposed pipes outside or in the attic, garage, basement, or crawl spaces. The weather patterns are changing, so take these precautions even if freezing is uncommon where you live. More insulation translates to better protection.
What to Do If the Pipes Freeze!
Pipes may still freeze even when you take precautions to prevent it. If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, you can try to thaw them yourself. However, this can be dangerous; you should only attempt it if you know what you’re doing. It is always better to consult a professional if you have frozen pipes.
Try these actions and consult a professional if they don’t work:
- Turn your faucet on – keep the faucet on to release the pressure of frozen water and prevent bursting
- Find the freezing point – inspect the pipes and open different faucets to see if you can tell where the freeze occurred
- Use space heaters/heat tape – heat tape or heat cables wrapped on the pipes can help to melt frozen pipes. Ensure there is no leak/burst and follow the manufacturer’s installation and operation guidelines to prevent injury.
If all these fail, contact a licensed plumber from Precise Plumbing to help you thaw your pipes. You should always seek professional help if you can’t identify the source of the freeze or your initial actions to mitigate the situation don’t work.