Minimize the Risk of Pipe Freezing This Winter
Whenever the temperature reaches sudden and extreme lows, pipes are prone to freezing. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside the affected pipe to increase, which can result in a pipe break. Ice blockage can cause thousands of pounds of water to pressure to build up. A burst pipe could unleash gallons of water behind your walls and ceilings, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage to your home, furniture, floors and personal items. Luckily there are measures you can take to minimize the possibility of pipes freezing in the first place:
- Install anti-freeze faucets on your home’s exterior: Anti-freeze faucets have long stems that extend through the exterior wall into the house. Water never sits in the portion of piping outside the wall, where it might freeze.
- Seal basement drafts and leaks: Use expanding foam to seal gaps made in your basement for phone wires and pipes. Check all windows for possible drafts and make sure they close tightly.
- Insulate exposed piping: Wrap pipes in thick foam or fiberglass sleeves, especially the pipes closest to the exterior walls, which usually freeze first.
- Keep heat at a minimum of 55° Fahrenheit: Always keep your heat running at this temperature or higher, even when away from home for extended periods.
- Install electrical heat tape on vulnerable piping: Pay special attention to piping located in sensitive areas such as crawl spaces and closed rooms.
Even if a temperature-related pipe burst does occur, most insurance policies will cover the damage so long as you can prove you took preventive measures. That usually requires showing you either shut off the water supply or kept your home adequately heated when it was unoccupied.
If your pipes do freeze, apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad or a hair dryer. Do NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other device using an open flame. Do NOT under any circumstances operate an electrical appliance while standing in water.
If your pipes do burst, shut off the water immediately to prevent additional damage (label your water shut-offs now so you can spot them easily later on). Remove standing water with wet vacuums, and use specialty fans and dehumidifiers for drying. Contact a plumber to repair the damage and restore the water, call your insurance company to get the claims process started, and consider hiring an emergency water-mitigation service in cases of severe damage.