Frozen pipes are a common problem during the cold winter months. In many homes, hot and cold water lines are made from copper pipes. Copper pipes are great for water lines as they are non-reactive, don’t corrode, and last a long time. The only issue is that copper is a very poor insulator, which makes copper pipes extremely prone to freezing when exposed to cold temperatures.
Plastic pipes can experience the same issue. Any time a pipe freezes, there is a high chance it will rupture or burst. Because pipes are fairly rigid and can’t expand much, they can easily burst due to the added pressure from the ice that is forming and expanding.
A burst pipe is a serious issue since it can quickly start flooding your home and causing extensive damage. The good news is that preventing your pipes from freezing and bursting is fairly easy. Here are some tips that will help you protect your water lines and prevent them from freezing this winter.
Keep Your Furnace Set No Lower Than 60 Degrees
Any time the outdoor temperature is well below freezing, it is important that you always leave your heating equipment turned on and your thermostat set to at least 60 degrees. The reason you shouldn’t go any lower than 60 degrees is that there will always be parts of your home that stay far colder than what your thermostat reads. This is especially true for the areas along the foundation walls in a basement.
This happens to be where some of the water lines are located in many homes. Foundation walls are often around 20 degrees colder than the temperature in the main part of the home. As such, the water lines that run along them will be much more likely to freeze if you don’t keep the heat turned up.
Insulate All Exposed Water Lines
It’s also a good idea to fully insulate any exposed water lines. If your home has a crawl space, most of your water lines will be located in the crawl space just below your floor. Homes that are built on a slab foundation often have some water lines in the attic. It is especially important that any pipes in the attic or crawl space are completely insulated since these areas can get much colder in the winter.
Insulating exposed water lines will lessen the chances of the pipes bursting, as the insulation will help to prevent cold air from penetrating through the pipe and potentially causing the water inside it to freeze.
Foam pipe insulation is one option that can help keep your pipes from freezing. You may also want to consider having a plumber wrap the pipes in your basement or crawl space with heat tape. When the weather is extremely cold, you can plug heat tape in so an electrical current flows through it to keep the pipes warm and prevent freezing.
Seal Any Gaps and Cracks in Your Home’s Structure
It’s important to inspect your foundation walls and check around the exterior structure of your home for any cracks or gaps where cold air can seep inside. Sealing up these air leaks will help keep the areas near your foundation and inside your exterior walls from getting too cold. This will again lessen the chances of the pipes freezing in these areas.
Insulate Your Crawl Space or Attic
If you have any pipes in your crawl space or attic, it is important to fully insulate these spaces so that they stay warmer during the winter. Not only will this reduce the risk of your pipes freezing, but it will also make your home more energy efficient. Your heating costs are lower, and your home stays warmer and more comfortable.
Keep a Trickle of Water Running Overnight
During extreme cold spells, when the temperature drops to single digits, you may need to take additional steps to ensure your pipes don’t freeze. One of the best things to do in these situations is to slightly open up all of your faucets so that there is just a trickle of water constantly running.
All of your water lines are filled with standing water whenever your plumbing isn’t in use. Leaving a trickle of water running will keep water moving through the pipes, which will greatly reduce the chances of the pipe bursting. Running water is much less likely to freeze compared to standing water.
Leave Cabinet Doors Open
Open the doors to the cabinets underneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks. Many sinks are located along an exterior wall, and the area along the exterior walls is always colder. If you don’t open the doors to the cabinets, the inside of the cabinet could easily become cold enough for the pipes to freeze.
Opening up the doors will allow some heat to circulate within the cabinet, so it stays warmer and your pipes are less likely to freeze. You can achieve adequate air flow by using a space heater or fan to keep the area warmer. Just be sure that you’ll be home when you do this. Don’t leave equipment running while you’re away.
Replace Copper Water Lines With PEX Piping
Replacing copper water lines with polyurethane PEX piping will make them far less likely to burst. This option is definitely more expensive, but it can be well worth it. PEX piping is a much better insulator than copper, which means the water inside the pipe won’t get as cold and is less likely to freeze. PEX pipes can still freeze, but they usually won’t burst because of the less rigid nature of the polyurethane. It can expand if the water freezes, preventing the pipe from rupturing.
Call a Plumber Immediately If You Suspect You Have a Frozen Pipe
You’ll usually be able to tell if any of your pipes freeze, as you won’t have water in some or all of your plumbing fixtures. Any time you suspect a pipe in your home is frozen, it is important to immediately call a plumber so they can start thawing out the pipe to reduce the chances of it bursting. If you discover a frozen pipe, you should shut off your water supply by closing the shut-off valve where the main water line enters your home. Shutting off your water supply is important for preventing major flooding and water damage should the frozen pipe rupture before you can get a plumber out to your home.
If you find yourself dealing with a frozen pipe this winter, you can count on the professional plumbing solutions at AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical for help. We can also assist if you’re looking for ways to prevent your pipes from freezing. We also offer other plumbing repair services and new installations in the Farmington Hills area. For more information on our range of plumbing, heating, air conditioning or electrical services, give us a call today.