If you live in a cold climate area and experience extreme temperatures in the winter, then you should understand that your water pipes are at risk of freezing. When a home water pipe freezes, dense ice expands and places a great deal of pressure on the copper tubing. The stress causes the pipe to crack and unfrozen water pours out the opening. The emergency situation must then be handled by a plumber who either replaces or repairs your water lines. You can easily prevent the need for costly repairs though if you learn how to keep your pipes from freezing in the first place.
Protect Your Pipes
Both exposed outside water supply lines and unprotected interior pipes can freeze in the winter. Outside water lines supply water to swimming pools, outdoor showers, and sprinkler systems. When these lines become cold, water freezes and ice travels toward your house. Eventually, the inside water lines freeze and the pipes burst. Reduce freezing risks by locating the pipes in your home that supply water to the outside lines. Find the shut off valves attached to these pipes and turn them off. Run sprinklers, showers, and pool filling lines to empty the pipes.
If you cannot turn off water to outside water pipes, then cover the pipes with heat tape. Heat tape is electrical wiring contained in a thick rubber casing that produces heat. Plug the tape into an indoor or outdoor outlet and wrap the wiring tightly around your exposed water line. The wires heat up automatically and shut off when they become too warm.
To protect your interior water pipes, look around basements and crawlspaces for any holes or openings that allow cold air into your home. Close these openings with either spray foam insulation or silicone caulk. Identify pipes that are one to three inches from outside walls. Cover these pipes in one-half inch polyethylene foam insulation material. This insulation has a slit down the side and a three-quarter inch hole in the middle that allows a water pipe to sit inside.
Measure the length of each pipe that needs insulation and purchase polyethylene coverings at your local home store. Also, purchase zip ties to secure the insulation. Use scissors or a utility knife to cut the insulation down to size, and slip it over your pipes. Tighten a zip tie around the insulation every two or three feet to ensure a tight fit.
Keep Water Moving
Water pipes are most likely to freeze when water remains stagnant in the pipes. Run water regularly to keep water from hardening into a block of ice. Turn on cold water faucets in your bathroom and kitchen every morning, and let them run for one minute. Also, do one load of wash every day or let your washing machine run through a rinse cycle. Make sure to run basement faucets and other appliances that use water intake lines as well.
When temperatures outside reach below zero degrees Fahrenheit, turn faucets on so they release a trickle of water. Leave the faucets on for an hour or more. Leave water on as well if a faucet sputters when you first turn it on, because this indicates that water is already starting to freeze. Let water trickle several times a day for good movement.
Open sink cabinets if you are unable to leave water run during the day. This allows warm air to move around water pipes. If the pipes under your sinks are very cold to the touch when you open cabinets, use a hair dryer to warm them. Set your dryer to the hottest setting and hold it two inches from the water pipe. Use the drier for five minutes and slowly move it across the pipe. You can use your hair dryer as well to heat water lines that have already started to freeze, but it will take 15 to 20 minutes to melt ice.
Cold weather in the winter can cause pipes to both freeze and burst. This can create a disaster, but you can easily prevent a pipe freezing incident by following the tips above. If your pipes freeze and burst, you'll need to call professionals—like The Drain Surgeons