Winter brings on the perfect conditions for pipes to freeze and burst. Did you know that pipe bursts are one of the most common causes of property damage during the winter months? Pipes that tend to get hit the hardest are those in spaces that aren’t heated like attics, basements, garages, and crawl spaces.
However, don’t discount pipes in areas that ARE heated! Pipes that run through heated areas can freeze just as easily if the temperatures plummet low enough. The good news is that there are a few simple things to do that will keep your pipes thawed and water damage from hurting your home!
10 Ways to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Any water hoses that are normally hooked up outside should be disconnected during freezing temperatures. This will prevent the water inside the hoses from freezing and expanding, which will stop the connected faucets and pipes from breaking and bursting!
Check all outside faucets before winter sets in. If you notice any drips or leaks, call in a plumber or make the necessary repairs yourself!
Shut off the outside water supply if possible! Some homes are equipped with a valve that controls just the outside water flow. Shut this down during the winter months.
Cover outside faucets with an insulation kit. These are found at your local hardware stores and are an inexpensive way to prevent water damage!
Any pipes that are in unheated areas like attics, basements, crawl spaces, etc. should be insulated. For an easy insulation fix there is heat tape that is easily installed. For the more ambitious DIYer, thermostat-controlled heat cables also exist. These can be installed around pipes to keep them from freezing during the winter months.
Your furnace should never be set lower than 55 degrees during the winter. When pipes freeze, water pressure can build and cracks will appear. This can happen in pipes made of copper, steel, or plastic – and even a tiny crack can cause a leak that will leave behind 250 gallons of water EACH DAY.
Before winter hits hard, drain sediment from your water tank. During the winter, your water heater works harder than during the warmer months and sediment can cause your heater to work over time and be less efficient than normal.
Speaking of your water heater – it should be set at 120 degrees for optimum performance without scalding anyone in the home.
Another outdoor project to complete before winter is cleaning the gutters. These should be free of debris and dirt to allow water from melted snow and ice to flow freely through the entire winter season. If there is a blockage, that water will only leak into your home!
Check your sump pit. Before winter hits, check that your sump pit is free of rocks and debris. Dump a bucket of water to test the pump to ensure it is working properly and will carry all excess water away from the home.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
Once your pipes are frozen, all is not lost! There are many ways that you can thaw your pipes before they burst.
The first thing to do is keep the faucet open. As you start to thaw the pipe, the water will begin to melt and it needs somewhere to drain! Any water that runs through the pipe will also help the melting process happen faster.
To begin thawing the pipe you only need a few standard household items! A heating pad, hair dryer, or a space heater are just a few items that come in REALLY handy for a frozen pipe.
A heating pad can be physically wrapped around the pipe, hitting areas that may be a little more difficult for a space heater or blow dryer. A space heater is great for a prolonged period of time (just don’t leave it unattended if you leave your home!), and a blow dryer is perfect if the pipe is in a small area.
Once you start to melt the pipes, you will notice water beginning to trickle through the faucet. Keep going with your heating process – this means it’s working! Restoring to full water pressure is the goal. If this doesn’t happen with these home remedies, a professional plumber may be needed.
What if I Experienced Water Damage?
Unfortunately, there are times when water damage does happen as a result of frozen pipes. We can do everything right to prevent it, but circumstances beyond our control cause flooding, mold, or mildew. In situations like this, a professional water restoration company is necessary to ensure your property is returned to normal in the shortest amount of time.