The risk of pipes freezing in areas where cold snaps are a common occurrence, is something all homeowners face during cold winters. However, there are steps you can take to stop frozen pipes from ruining your day. This article will cover steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing this winter and what to do if they happen to freeze or burst.
What Temperatures Do Pipes Freeze?
The freezing point of water is 32 °F, but most household pipes are too close to a warm house to immediately freeze over when outside temperatures drop to this level.
Pipes are relatively safe from freezing if outside temps stay above 20 °F. Moving water caused by open faucets is also unlikely to freeze, which is why setting them to a slow drip can be so effective.
There are a lot of variables at play, so no rules are set in stone when it comes to the risk of freezing pipes. It's standard practice for homeowners in colder areas to insulate their water pipes. However, even warmer areas can be subjected to a cold snap that can cause pipes to freeze and burst unexpectedly.
How Long Before Pipes Burst From Freezing?
The amount of insulation present around your home's plumbing can significantly slow down the time to freezing when the outside temperatures are plummeting.
Studies have shown that pipes can freeze in as little as two hours and twenty minutes under the right conditions. Bursting occurs quite soon after a pipe freezes as well.
It's important to note that freezing pipes burst most often at night because this is the time of day when temperatures are at their lowest. Unfortunately, most people are asleep when it happens.
Tips to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Frozen pipes are usually the result of one of three different scenarios:
● Rapid temperature drops
● Low-quality insulation
● Low settings on the thermostat
Here are the things you can do to prepare your pipes against the freezing weather.
Check Your Plumbing for Exposed Pipes
Check around your home for pipes that may be exposed. The most likely locations include the basement, attic, and garage. You can quickly evaluate the most at-risk areas by using a temperature gauge to see which areas experience the biggest temperature drops. A blueprint of your home can also make this job a lot easier.
Insulate Your Pipes
Pipe insulation can be a big help against freezing, even when you live in a climate that doesn't often reach freezing temperatures. Exposed pipes are more at risk, so the more insulation you wrap around them, the better off you will be.
Insulating pipe tubes are fairly rigid and suitable for straight runs. Otherwise, you can use wrap-around insulation for more complex pipework that has a lot of bends. Pipe insulation should be checked periodically to ensure nothing has come undone.
Seal Leaks Around Your Home
Keep the cold air outside by ensuring you plug up any leaks around your home. Air leaks often occur around drier vents and electrical wiring. Use some type of caulk or insulation to plug any leaks you find. This will also create a more energy-efficient household because you will be trapping warm air inside.
Winterize Your Faucets, Valve, and Hoses
Before the cold weather sets in, drain and disconnect your garden hoses. If possible, you should also shut off and drain water from pipes that feed outside faucets.
Put Your Faucets on a Slow Drip
Set your faucets to a slow drip when the weather forecast warns of freezing temperatures overnight. A little warm water flowing through your pipes is often all it takes to stop pipes from freezing during a cold snap.
Set Your Thermostat
Keeping your thermostat at the same temperature during the day and night is an excellent way to prevent freezing pipes, and it also reduces the strain on the furnace. Open any inside cabinet doors where there are pipes, as the warm air from the house can keep them above freezing temperatures.
Thawing Out Frozen Pipes
There are two primary considerations when thawing out your pipes. Firstly, take it slow because getting it done quickly can cause thermal shock to the metal and break the pipes. Secondly, you need to start from closest to the faucet and work your way backward.
As the pipe thaws, the blockages will dislodge and allow the water to escape through the faucet. If you start from further down, you will increase the water pressure inside the pipe and put it more at risk of rupturing.
When you notice your faucet is not flowing or is only letting out a trickle, start by opening the cabinet doors to allow, warm air to circulate around the pipes. A hairdryer turned on low and used at a distance can also suffice as a source of warm air. The important thing is to ensure you warm the pipes gently, so blow-torches are not an option.
Make sure you keep the faucet open so you can tell the moment that water starts flowing again. You should also consider turning your thermostat up a few notches to assist with the process.
What To Do If Your Pipes Burst
You might be able to handle it yourself simply by shutting off the water supply valve and doing the cleanup yourself when the flooding is minor. However, the flooding can be extensive if you are away or asleep when it happens.
In these instances, you should first check your insurance policy and call your provider if you are covered for this type of damage. Make sure the area is safe to enter before you start mopping up. You may need to shut off the electricity or get an electrician to do this for you and give you the all-clear.
A plumber will be needed to fix the damaged pipes. Next, you should call the water remediation experts to help with the drying process and reclaim damaged items. They will speed the drying process up with industrial drying equipment. Drying the area out quickly is the surest way to prevent further degradation from moisture and stop a mold outbreak.