How to Prevent Frozen Pipes During the Winter
January 27, 2014
Every winter, about 250,000 people find themselves with messes from pipes that freeze and burst. In addition to erupting and filling a room with water, a burst pipe can also cost a person thousands of dollars in damages. Carpet, photos, furniture and other belongings can be damaged to the point they need to be replaced. A crack measuring only three millimeters can spew as much as 250 gallons of water into a person's home in just one day. Whether a person has plastic PVC or copper pipes, they are not immune to ruptures and bursts.
Fortunately, there are several steps that can be taken to protect pipes and avoid the hassles associated with bursts.
To avoid flooding, consider these tips:
- Bundle up the pipes before winter arrives. Use insulation in attics, garages and crawl spaces. Be generous with the insulation, because more protection means pipes are less likely to burst.
- Wrap pipes up with heat cables that are thermostatically controlled. Heat tape can also be used. Place this around pipes that are at a higher risk of bursting. Before using any of these types of products, make sure they are approved by testing organizations. Follow the installation instructions carefully.
- Seal any cracks, and look for air leaks close to the pipes. If there is cold air leaking in even through a tiny space, pipes can freeze quickly and burst. Every leak should be sealed properly with insulation or caulk.
- Turn up the thermostat to 65 degrees or higher during the winter. Temperatures in the attic or behind the walls can become cold enough to let the pipes freeze if the thermostat is turned lower than this.
- Put any hoses away before temperatures drop in the winter months. After doing this, shut off the indoor valve.
- Keep one faucet on in the home at all times, but set it so it will only drip warm water slowly. Even the smallest trickle can aid in preventing pipes from freezing. Whenever possible, use a faucet that is located on an outside wall.
- When leaving the home for any period of time, have someone check on it daily. Tell the individual to look for signs of pipes that are about to burst. Also, tell them to ensure the house is warm enough to prevent frozen pipes. If this is not possible, it may be best to drain the water system and shut it off before leaving. However, it is important to remember that this will render a fire sprinkler system ineffective if there is a fire.
- Know how to spot a frozen pipe. If the faucet is turned on but water does not come out, this is a sign that the pipe is frozen. Call a plumber, and leave the faucet on. It may be possible to thaw a frozen pipe with a hair dryer. Start close to the faucet, and work toward the coldest section of the pipe. Avoid using any open flames or torches to defrost pipes.
- If a pipe does burst, turn the water off at the main shutoff valve. Turn all of the faucets on, and call a plumber immediately. After calling the plumber, call the insurance agent. Adjusters will not need to come assess the spill itself, but they must know about it and assess the damages later. If possible, take photos of any spills or damages.
- Move any electronic items, rugs, furniture or other belongings out of harm's way. Mop the water up immediately, and set a fan to help it dry. If this is not possible, use towels to dry the floor. If any temporary repairs must be made to prevent further damage, make them and keep all receipts. Insurers may reimburse policyholders for temporary repairs. Wait until after the adjuster has assessed the damage to make any permanent or extensive repairs.
To avoid having this happen, take all of the proper steps to protect pipes during the coldest months of the year. Even with preparations, there is still a possibility that pipes could burst during storms and power failures. This is why it is important to plan for them and be prepared.