What's worse than a major home maintenance disaster? Try several major home maintenance disasters at once. When a house's water pipes freeze, the situation is not as simple as calling a plumber near you. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold.
Frozen water pipes are a problem in both cold and warmer climates, affecting a quarter-million families each winter, and it can happen in homes with both plastic and copper pipes. It's all too common, especially considering this damage is largely preventable.
In addition to taking the usual preventive precautions, here are a few steps you can take to keep your pipes from turning frigid nights into inconvenient, and expensive ordeals.
Before winter arrives
The three central causes of frozen pipes are quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set too low. You can prepare your home during the warmer months.
Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic, even if you live in a climate where freezing is uncommon. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember, the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions.
Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
Before winter hits, disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When the mercury plummets
Even if you've taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. Here are a few more steps you can take:
A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you're asleep, but further drops in the temperature—more common overnight—could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes.
Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
Before you skip town
Travelling in the winter months might be good for the soul, but don't forget to think about your pipes before you leave. What can you do?
Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F (12°C). Also be sure to replace the battery in your thermostat.
Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing.
Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water.
If your pipes do freeze
What if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventive measures? First step: Don't panic. Just because they're frozen doesn't mean they've already burst. Here's what you can do:
If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. You could be electrocuted.
Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!
You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
With the temperatures dropping, it’s likely that you’ve already dragged your winter clothes out of storage and piled a few extra blankets on your bed. You may be prepared for the cooler seasons, but is your home ready? Freezing temperatures can harm areas of your house if it’s not properly prepared, especially your plumbing. Here in Beaver County, we know how extreme the weather can get. Will your home be ready? Here are a few things that you can do to get your plumbing ready for the cold weather ahead:
Insulate Your Pipes
We may not have to worry about it yet, but freezing temperatures will reach us eventually! Pipes are susceptible to freezing any time the temp drops low enough. When they do freeze, they can burst, resulting in thousands of dollars in water damage and pipe repair.
The best way to prevent this, other than keeping your home properly heated, is insulating your pipes. Self-adhesive pipe insulation is readily available at most home supply stores and it’s easy to apply. You can easily do it on your own! A DIY project like this can take one day or several, depending on how many pipes you have access to. You simply cut the insulation to the right size and attach it to your pipes.
Keep in mind that there are hidden pipes throughout your system. Some are located underground while others are behind walls or in hard to reach areas. These pipes can’t be insulated, but you can protect them on cold nights by leaving your faucets running at a drip and keeping your home heated to 60 degrees or higher.
Disconnect Your Hose
Spring and summer are over, and it’s likely that you won’t be spending as much time watering the lawn or garden as it gets cooler. As the seasons transition, you should disconnect any outdoor hoses from your home’s exterior and drain. Store the hose somewhere dry for the cooler months, and be sure to shut off any water access valves leading to the outdoor spigot.
Inspect Your Water Heater
Your water heater works extra hard during the cooler months to keep the warm water flowing through your taps, showers, and plumbing appliances. While it does need routine professional maintenance, you can keep an eye on your own in between services. Before it gets too chilly outside, check your water heater for any signs of wear and tear. Rust, dents, leaks and any other warning signs should be addressed by a Suica Plumbing professional immediately. If you’re concerned about the inside of your tank, you can drain a portion of the water from your tank into a bucket. If there’s any sediment build up or rust in the water you drain, you may be in need of replacement.
Why Choose Suica Plumbing
We provide a full range of services, including installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement for your pipes, fixtures, gas and water lines, sump pumps and ejector pumps, kitchen and bathroom applications, back flow prevention devices, and water filtration and softening devices.
Features of our plumbing services include:
Itemized, transparent quotes
No hidden costs
Warranties on parts and labor
Licensed, background-checked professionals
Fully stocked trucks
24/7 emergency services
Annual maintenance plans for the preventative care of your property.
If you need help getting your plumbing ready for the cooler weather, call Suica Plumbing today!