When the outside temperature drops below freezing, the water inside your home’s plumbing turns to ice and expands. The expansion produces enough pressure to burst one or more pipes, causing a massive water leak. Fixing a burst pipe can be a big job, costing you hundreds of dollars in parts and repairs. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent a pipe from bursting in your plumbing. Below, we look at several ways to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter.
1. Heat Every Room in Your HouseOne of the most common myths in home heating is that closing doors and vents will help you concentrate more warm air in a designated area. The truth is that closing off doors and vents prevent proper air circulation. As a result, some rooms or areas never receive the warm air they need. Many of these rooms have pipes nearby. Allowing warm air to circulate through your entire house keeps the pipes warm and prevents them from bursting. Check all the vents in your house to make sure they are open. Also, feel each vent to make sure a warm air is coming out. If not, you may need to schedule an air duct cleaning to remove any blockage in your ductwork.
2. Open Cabinet DoorsIf your sinks are near an outside wall, it’s a good idea to leave your cabinet doors open so warmer air can flow near the pipe. Leaving your cabinet doors open allows room temperature air to keep your pipes warmer. With the doors closed, your pipes are essentially sealed-in with the cold outdoor air, like a refrigerator. Keep in mind that you do not have to open up all the cabinets. Instead, focus on the cabinets that contain fixtures, pipes, or drains. Doing so isolates the warm air to the pipes instead of the entire cabinet area. Open the cabinets any time the temperature falls below 32 degrees outside for more than three hours. It may just prevent a burst pipe.
3. Let the Faucet DripThere is a difference in air temperature and groundwater temperature, with groundwater temperature typically warmer during winter. For instance, if the temperature outside is 30 degrees, the groundwater temperature is closer to 40 to 50 degrees. The warmer water temperature can prevent pipes from bursting in sub-freezing temperatures. Allowing your faucets to drip keeps a steady stream of warmer water flowing, preventing cold water from freezing and potentially bursting the pipes. When turning the faucet on, use the cold water and reduce the flow to a light but steady drip. You don’t have to turn on the hot water or let the water flow full blast. Doing so will run up your water bill.
4. Insulate the PipesInsulating pipes is a simple but effective way to prevent them from freezing this winter. Follow these tips for insulating your pipes.
- Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces, attic, and garage. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. The more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes are.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables. Be sure to follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions.
- Seal leaks that allow cold air inside, near where pipes are located (i.e. around electrical wiring, dryer vents, other pipes), with caulk or insulation. When it’s extremely cold, a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
Apply Heating Tape to Vulnerable PipesHeat tape prevents metal and rigid plastic pipes from freezing. In sub-freezing areas, heat tape is one of the most popular ways to protect pipes from freezing because it’s affordable and works remarkably well. Heat tape isn’t sticky. It is a simple resistive heat-conducting flexible wire that uses electricity to produce heat. This heat source is held close against your vulnerable water lines and keeps the water from freezing. Here are some things to consider when applying heating tape to pipes:
- Make sure the heating tape is appropriate for the plumbing material in your home.
- Use low-temperature heating tape for plumbing systems in older mobile homes.
- Avoid using heat tape around aluminum wiring.
- Only use heating tape when the temperature outside is below freezing.
- Follow manufacturer specifications when installing heating tape.