When water freezes, it expands. That's why a can of soda explodes if it's put into a freezer for too long. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes, and you are hit with a huge invoice. No matter how cold it gets, there are certain precautions all homeowners can take to avoid frozen pipes.
Keep Pipes Out of Subfreezing Temperatures
You always want to keep water pipes in heated spaces and away from attics or other areas vulnerable to outside walls. Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to cold air too quickly. Few pipes can withstand some of the weather the U.S. has seen this winter without proper installation. No matter the "strength" of the container or pipe, expanding water can cause pipes to break.
If you are about to build your dream home, make sure you place your water pipes away from the exteriors or near any walls that could experience an extra breeze during the winter. Likewise, keep the furnace location in mind as well. Many are not designed for below zero temperatures. If you think your furnace needs an update, see what you can expect to pay by checking out our furnace repair cost estimator.
Keep Cabinet Doors Open
While it may be an inconvenience as you walk around your kitchen or bathroom, it is a good idea to keep cabinets open during the winter so the warm air circulating the room can hit the cold pipes. It may not seem like a lot, but any opportunity to provide these pipes with extra warmth should be highly considered. If you don’t want to open all cabinets, make sure to at least open the ones below the kitchen and bathroom sinks as I am sure you will want running water for the most trafficked rooms in the home.
Let Cold Water Drip from the Faucet
If your pipes are about to freeze or are exposed to very cold weather, the water temperature will dip quite a bit. The colder the water, the better a chance your water pipes could freeze. Therefore, you should let the cold water drip from the faucet. This is especially important if you know your pipes are already frozen. Either way, according to The Weather Channel, even a trickle of water can prevent pipes from freezing. If you are leaving for vacation and want to step up your DIY skills, you should drain the entire system or open the faucet completely to ensure no pipes will burst while you’re gone. If you’re leaving for a lengthy vacation, be sure to contact an HVAC contractor in your area.
Seal Cracks and Holes Around Home
No matter how modern or traditional your home may be, we all have a few cords, wires and pipes that run through the wall and are exposed to outside temperatures. Many times, utility workers or contractors make extra holes in walls to make sure homeowners have the best possible service throughout the home. If you are worried about dropping temperatures, it is a good idea to go around the home and seal any cracks or holes near water pipes. Make sure you leave enough space for the wire to go through, but feel free to seal any extra space you see. In similar fashion, as we noted in 5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Gas Bill During the Winter, you should caulk all your windows and doors to prevent cold air from entering or warm air from leaving your home.
- Run heating tapes and cables along your water pipes. This will slow the heat transfer.
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in there.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature, both during the day and at night.
- Place a lamp with a 60-watt bulb in the potential problem area to warm the walls and pipes. Make sure there are no combustible materials near the bulb (HGTV).
- If the water pipes are freezing inside the exterior wall, cut an opening in the wall to expose the pipes to the home's warm air. Place fiberglass insulation behind the pipes and between the pipes and home's exterior wall. The hole in the wall can be covered later with a hinged door or a panel that can be removed during cold spells (HGTV).
What to do if Pipes Burst
First locate your main water supply, which tends to be somewhere in the basement. Immediately turn it off to prevent any more water damage in the home. Then, turn off your electrical supply so your computers, lights, TVs, etc. do not experience any additional damage. After these two imperative steps, it is time to contact a plumber in your area.
As we always say, preventative maintenance is better than reactive. Make sure you are not stuck with frozen pipes by following these recommendations or contacting an HVAC contractor in your area today.