If you live in a cold climate, there’s a chance your home’s pipes could freeze. And frozen pipes may burst, causing serious water damage to the home. Frozen pipes can be inconvenient and a frozen water pipe is prone to bursting, which can cause costly water damage inside the home. Therefore, it’s important to prevent pipes from freezing with a bit of seasonal home maintenance.
Tending to the home’s water pipes should be on every resident’s home winterizing checklist. Consider the following ways to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting during the cold winter months.
Identify Which Pipes that are Likely to Freeze. Certain pipes and certain sections of piping are more likely to freeze than others. Pipes that run along exterior walls of the house are more apt to freeze, particularly in an older home, where the walls may not be insulated.
Pipes that run through attic crawlspaces, garages and the basement are also prone to freezing. Homeowners should also pay attention to the area where the main water supply pipe enters the home, as this area is especially prone to freezing.
It’s also important to remember that hot water pipes can freeze; it’s not just cold water pipes that must be winterized. And the air around the pipe does not need to be 32 degrees or colder; the cold travels up the pipe, allowing the water inside to freeze, causing an ice blockage and a potential pipe burst.
Insulate Water Pipes, Especially Pipes That Are Likely to Freeze. Purchase and install pipe insulation – foam tubes that can be fitted around each pipe inside the home. Pipe insulators will help to keep pipes warm, making it less likely that the pipes will freeze.
In areas that are especially prone to freezing pipes, wrap the pipes with electric heating tape, available at most home supply stores and hardware stores.
For pipes that run along exterior walls, it’s also prudent to place fiberglass insulation between the pipe and the exterior wall for added protection from cold. Extra insulation should be placed around the section of piping at the point where the water supply enters the home, as these pipes tend to freeze at a much faster rate since the cold will travel from the outdoors and along the interior pipes.
On extremely cold days, homeowners should take extra precautions to prevent pipes from freezing. One way to prevent pipes from freezing is to keep the water moving through the pipes. To keep water flowing through pipes to avoid freezing, leave several faucets turned on, with a flow that’s just slightly more than a heavy drip. It’s important to leave several different faucets running, as sections of piping can freeze, cutting off the water supply to entire sections of the home (i.e. the entire second floor). Leaving several faucets running will also pull in more water though the main pipe running into the home – the pipe that is most likely to freeze in many homes.
There is also new innovative technology on the market that is easy to install (not requiring pipe cutting or electrical wiring) and a great pipe freezing prevention aid. A temperature controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve installed at the plumbing fixture at the end of the “at risk plumbing run” (pipes most likely to freeze), will allow water to flow from your water heater-through the existing hot water pipe in the “at risk plumbing run”-to the recirculation valve. From the hot water recirculation valve the water will continue back to the water heater (for reheating)-through the cold water pipe in the “at risk plumbing run”. The system contains a sensor, which opens the valve only when the water temperature drops below the adjustable temperature setting. This open loop of water circulation keeps temped water circulating through the “at risk plumbing run” without wasting water. An additional benefit to this recirculation valve is faster hot water.
In addition, if a home loses heat for any reason (or in the case of a seasonal home), it’s important to drain the water pipes in the home to prevent pipe freezing and bursting. Pipes will burst as a result of the expansion that occurs when water freezes into ice.
Draining the water from a home’s pipes is simple: turn off the home’s water supply using the main valve, usually located at the point where the water supply enters the home. Then, run all of the home’s faucets and showers until the water stops flowing.
Homeowners can also prevent pipes from freezing and bursting by draining the pipes that feed exterior water spigots. Similarly, turn off the valve that supplies water to the outdoor water spigots and open the spigot and let all of the water flow out of the pipes. This should be done in fall, during the home winterizing process.