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How-to prevent plumbing pipes from freezing 

11.01.21 11:32 AM By Quix Plumbing Service

Are you thinking of winterizing your plumbing pipes? If you're reading this, you probably live in an area where winters get pretty cold. Even though we can't do anything about extreme weather, we can provide you with some handy tips to keep your pipes from freezing.

Frozen downspout pipe

When water freezes, it expands in volume by about 9 percent, and it expands with tons of force. The pressure inside pipes may go from 40 up to 40,000 pounds per square inch (psi). No pipe can hold that much pressure, and so it breaks open.

Sometimes the pipe bursts where the ice forms, but more often, it happens in a weak spot in the pipe. That may be inches or even feet away from the area that is actually frozen. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening and keep your pipes from freezing, then bursting, and costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

How cold is "too cold"  for pipes? 

The “temperature alert range” for freezing pipes is between 32-20 degrees Fahrenheit and below. However, this isn't always set in stone and will vary depending on how exposed your home's plumbing system is to wind and other elements.

If pipes are near cracks or openings that let in cold air, they may develop ice blockages - even if they are in a heated space inside your home. For example, small openings that let telephone, cable, or internet lines enter a room may increase your pipes exposure and result in pipes freezing and bursting.

So if you're experiencing an extreme weather event such as a cold snap or a blizzard, you may be at risk of having frozen pipes, even if the internal temperature inside your home is above 60 degrees. If you're concerned about frozen or burst pipes, take preventative action ASAP.

12 Simple Steps To Keep Pipes From Freezing

1. Keep the thermostat consistent

Turning your thermostat down at night can save you money on heating bills, but it also leaves your pipes more susceptible to freezing and bursting. So keep your thermostat set to 65-70 degrees at night and during daytime hours, even if you are planning to be away for an extended period of time. 

2. Get to know the layout of your system

Identify the pipes most vulnerable to freezing by looking for those located along outside walls, windows, and in unheated spaces.

3. Check your property for cracks

Make sure you look for cracks in the walls, floors, and ceilings. If you find holes during your inspection, caulk them or use spray foam to keep cold air from entering those gaps.

4. Keep interior doors open

Including crawl spaces, attics, closets, and so on. This invites air circulation to move warm air from room to room. Consider setting up fans to blow heat into colder areas, using space heaters if necessary. 

5. Open your cabinets

Pipes are usually located inside cabinets, keeping cabinet doors and drawers open will allow more heat in.

6. Close exterior vents

Close all of the exterior vents so that freezing air will stay out of your crawl spaces. If you don't have metal covers, simply use heavy-duty cardboard and seal with duct tape.

7. Let faucets drip

Don’t get crazy and turn on all the faucets in your home! First, determine which ones are fed by exposed piping. Once you’ve narrowed it down, leave these few faucets on during especially bitter weather. Make sure you turn on both hot and cold water lines to make sure pressure doesn’t build up in one and not the other. Running water, even a small trickle will help. 

8. Seal your windows and door frames to prevent drafts

Be sure to check for any gaps around windows and door frames, as well external spots like your garage

9. Use heating tape

If you reach the pipe easily, you can apply electrical heating tape directly to the pipe to help it retain heat. This can be especially helpful for pipes in unheated or exterior locations, such as in cold attics or basements.

10. Disconnect your hose from the outside faucet

Be sure to disconnect your hose from the outside faucet. If you leave it connected to the hose bib, water will not be able to drain out and will freeze and break the device.

11. Insulate pipes

Protect your water pipes from the cold with insulation sleeves, wrapping, or slip-on foam pipe insulation. Leave no gaps to avoid any cold air from seeping in.

12. Check for reduced water flow

If you have reduced water flow, that may be a sign that ice is forming. If your pipes have frozen, don’t panic! There are still a few things you can do before they burst and cause extensive damage to your home or property

What to do if your pipes are frozen

  • If you suspect your pipes are frozen your first plan of action should be to shut off the water supply to the house.
  • Open up some faucets, and let them thaw out that way. This will encourage the ice to go down the water supply lines instead of putting pressure on fittings and piping- which will cause them to burst open.

Then call Quix Plumbing Service or another qualified plumbing services company right away! It's important to get things thawed out and have your entire system inspected for leaks.