Getting your house ready for winter includes checking your pipes and taking a few simple steps to prevent freezing. Frozen pipes are not just an inconvenience—they can burst, resulting in expensive structural damage. Water expands as it freezes, which puts pressure on the pipe around it and blocks water flowing through the pipe. As water continues to freeze and thaw between the frozen blockage and the closed faucet, pressure builds inside the pipe. Eventually, the pipe will burst. How to Prevent Frozen Pipes When the outside temperatures drop and/or stay below 32 degrees, be aware of the possibility of freezing pipes. There are several easy steps you can take to reduce this threat.
• Drain sprinkler supply lines and swimming pools.
• Drain and remove outdoor hoses. Close the indoor valve but leave the outdoor valve open. This will allow water to drain and prevent pressure build-up if any water does freeze in the pipe.
• Seal any cracks or holes in exterior walls, particularly if water pipes run nearby.
• Pipes that run along exterior walls or in unheated crawl spaces and attics are most susceptible to freezing. Pipe sleeves, heat tape, or heat cables can be used to insulate these pipes. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions to install these materials properly, or have a professional plumber do the installation.
• If you are faced with an unexpected cold snap, newspaper can be used to wrap pipes. As little as ¼ inch can be thick enough to protect the pipes for a short time.
• Leave bathroom and kitchen cupboards open to allow air to circulate around the sink pipes.
• Let faucets drip. Leaving the faucet open enough for a slow, steady drip will keep pressure from building in the pipe, even if some water freezes. If you notice the drip stops, you should suspect a frozen pipe. If you will be away from home for an extended time during winter months, take extra precautions to protect your pipes. Leave your thermostat set at a constant 55 degrees or higher. Higher heating bills are less expensive than burst pipes and costly water damage. You may also want to drain your water system. Shut off the main valve and open all of your faucets, both hot and cold lines. Leave the taps open until water stops running. Once the water stops, you can close the faucets. When you return home, don’t forget to open the faucets before opening the main valve again. What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze If you turn on the tap and no water comes out, you may have a frozen pipe. Leave the tap open to prevent pressure build up. Warm the pipe slowly and gently, using an electric heating pad, a hair dryer, or a portable space heater. Never use an open flame, and never leave the room while pipes are being warmed. As the pipe thaws, water will drip from the faucet. Continue warming the pipe until full water pressure returns. If you have one frozen pipe, it is important to check all of the faucets in your home. Be particularly mindful of any pipes that run along exterior walls or in unheated spaces. If you cannot access the pipes, or you aren’t able to thaw the pipes yourself, contact a licensed plumber as soon as possible. If you need help insulating pipes or thawing pipes that have frozen, call a professional plumber. A qualified plumber can also help you assess which pipes might be in danger of freezing and suggest other ways to prevent frozen pipes.
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