Although its only fall, cold weather will be here soon. Now is the ideal time to prepare your plumbing system for the cold temperatures ahead. Frozen pipes do much more than interrupt your water supply. They can burst, causing severe water damage in your home, and potentially damage other parts of your system if not treated immediately.Learn these tips before you’re stuck dealing with the aftermath of cracked pipes and water leaks.
In many parts of the country, winter temperatures stay below freezing for months. A simple foam insulation of your pipes could be ineffective against constant single-digit temperatures. Add an extra layer of protection to your pipes by wrapping them in heating cable. Pipe heat cables are designed for plastic or metal cold water lines to fit many kinds of pipe material. Be sure to install the heating cable where pipes are accessible. You do not want to run the cable through the walls, ceiling or floor of your home.
Install pipe insulation around all accessible pipes after wrapping them with heating cable. Even if you don’t use heating tape or cable, it’s a good idea to add padded insulation to your pipes. Use at least 1/2” foam to cover your piping, including valves, joints and wall penetrations. The insulation will not only protect against frozen pipes, but it will also prevent heat loss from the pipes between the water heater and faucets.
When cold temperatures hit, your pipes can benefit from the warm air you have cranking through your home. The challenge is many of those pipes are behind closed doors, like those beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks. On particularly cold days, open the cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate the pipes. The warm air from your home can help stabilize pipe temperature.
Allowing a slow drip from your faucet can help keep the water flowing, and reduce the chance that the water will freeze within the pipe. Open the faucet just enough for a small, slow drip. You may see a slight increase in your water bill, but it’s much better than paying an emergency plumber to repair a frozen pipe.
Complete a visual inspection of the outside of your home, the basement, or crawlspace. Be sure you don’t have any visible leaks before winter hits. Pipes burst because when water freezes it expands in volume by about 9%. As it expands, the pressure inside the pipe increases from 40 pounds per square inch to nearly 40,000 PSI. Any vulnerable spots in your pipes will give way, so inspect for small holes or cracks. Don’t forget to disconnect your water hose from the outdoor spigot. Even faucets labeled “frost proof” can burst if a hose is attached.
Prevent your pipes from freezing this winter by taking the time now to invest in protecting your plumbing system.