As we enter the new year, we also enter the coldest part of the year! Colder weather might leave you wondering how to keep frozen pipes from bursting. Of course, this is a reasonable question, considering the extensive damage frozen pipes can cause to your bank account and your plumbing! Luckily, the team of experts at Cam Plumbing has the tips you need to avoid bursting frozen pipes!
Why Frozen Pipes Pose A Problem
Burst pipes are one of the top causes of property damage when the weather turns frigid. According to the Hanover Insurance Group, burst pipes easily result in $5,000 or more in water damage. Water has a superpower; it expands as it freezes. Is this usually a problem? No. However, expansion is not a great idea when the water is in your pipes. As the water expands, it puts pressure on your metal or plastic pipes. No matter how strong your pipes are, they are no match for water’s super-expanding powers!
Pipes that freeze are usually in the following areas:
Outside, such as swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and animal watering lines.
In unheated indoor areas like crawl spaces, the attic, garage, basement, or cabinets.
Pipes that run against exterior walls have little or no insulation.
At What Temperature Do Pipes Freeze?
Most people know the freezing point for water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the water inside your pipes doesn’t typically freeze at this temperature because the pipes inside your home have the protective barrier of your home’s insulation. So if it is 32 degrees outside, chances are your indoor plumbing is still safe.
Typically, your home’s pipes will freeze when the outside temperature hits 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a general number and partly depends on your geographical location. In areas where frozen temperatures are a common winter hazard, contractors and plumbers place water pipes in better-insulated parts of your home.
How To Protect Your Pipes Without A Plumber
1. Inspect Your Pipes
One of the easiest, cheapest, and quickest things you can do is look at your pipes. Inspect the turf around your sprinkler system. Is it worn? Have animals eaten away at the insulation around your pipes? Examine where your pipes are vulnerable to weather and the elements. A visual inspection helps you see if you need to call in a professional to prevent a bigger problem down the road.
2. Drip, Drip, Drip
Typically, we would not advocate leaving water running. However, a simple solution is to turn on one or two faucets for outdoor supply lines that you can not shut off and drain. This ensures a steady, slow trickle of water from the pipes at all times. When you allow a little water flow, you prevent ice from forming.
3. Air Flow
Plumbing lines usually enter your home through an exterior wall, usually in the kitchen or bathroom. The closed-off spaces inside crawl spaces or under counters hiding the pipes are generally significantly colder than the rest of your house. Open up the cabinets, door to your basement, and crawl space to help increase the temperature of the pipes by circulating the warm air.
4. Drain Everything
Drain water from your swimming pool, water sprinkler supply lines, hoses, and faucets. Do not put antifreeze in the lines unless directed. Move your hoses indoors. Keep the outside valve open, so any left-behind water can expand without causing the pipe to break.
5. A Little Extra Insulation
Add a little extra insulation to areas prone to colder temperatures, like basements, crawl spaces, and attics. Adding the insulation will help keep the temperature higher in these places and better protect your pipes. Also, double-check the basement, bathroom cabinets, and under the kitchen sink, as these areas also experience lower temperatures.
There are certain products you can install, such as a “pipe sleeve” or UL-listed “heat tape” or “heat cable” to help keep your pipes warmer as well. Finally, if you have old newspapers, add ¼ inch of newspaper around your pipes!
6. The Thermostat
We know it is tempting to drop the thermostat down low at night to save on your heating bill. However, temporarily dropping your temperature might result in a hefty repair bill if your pipes freeze. Keep in mind that the basement is colder than the rest of the house! In addition, set the heat no lower than 55 degrees F in your home when visiting family or going on a winter vacation.
7. Use Your Resources
There are numerous products out there to help you avoid frozen pipes in the first place. First, consider purchasing a freeze alarm. Freeze alarms often run less than $100. The handy device will alert your phone whenever the indoor temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you know it is time to add extra warmth in your high-risk freeze areas.
Another option is a hot water circulating pump to monitor your pipes’ temperature and automatically circulate warm water through both the cold and hot water lines whenever the temperature drops below a certain point.
Timeline for Pipes Freezing and Bursting
Several factors go into answering this question. First, what is the exact temperature outside? Second, how long is it supposed to stay that low or drop lower? As a general standard, for your water pipes to freeze, the outside temperature must sit at or below 20 degrees for at least 6 consecutive hours.
However, your home’s insulation and how deep your water pipes sit also impact this number. For example, if you live in sunny Southwest Florida, chances are your water pipes will not have much insulation to protect them from freezing temperatures. So it might take less time for your pipes to freeze and burst.
Signs Your Pipes Froze
You can discover a frozen pipe fairly easily and quickly. If no water or a slow trickle comes out of your tap when you turn it on, well, you have a problem. First, check to see if the water is still running. Next, ensure there is no leak in the basement. Now let’s talk about how to remedy the problem.
You can hire a plumber to thaw your pipes or try thawing them yourself. Hiring a trusted plumber is safer than thawing them yourself, but it is possible.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
Keep the faucet open. As you start to melt the water trapped in the frozen pipe, keeping the tap open allows the water to flow through the frozen area. It will also help melt ice in the pipe.
Get things warming up by applying heat to the area of the pipe that froze. Great heat sources include a hair dryer, a space heater (keep it away from flammable objects), an electric heating pad draped over the pipe, or towels soaked in toasty hot water. Never use a kerosene heat source, blowtorch, propane heater, or wood/charcoal burning stove.
Keep applying heat until your water pressure returns to normal. If you can’t find the frozen area or it is not accessible, it is time to call your trusted plumbing team!
Double-check that all your other faucets work well. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
The Pipe Burst! Now What?
1. Stop The Water’s Flow
As soon as you suspect a frozen or cracked pipe, immediately turn off the water supply to that pipe. Certain homes have valves that let you turn off the water for specific areas of the house. If you don’t have one of these valves, use your main shut-off valve to stop the water.
We highly recommend knowing where your shut-off valve is before a flood of water fills your home.
2. Remove The Water
Depending on where the break happens, you might see a noticeable pooling of water, or you may only notice a drop in your home’s water pressure. Regardless of how much water, removing the water and expediting the drying process is important. The wet building material is the perfect breeding ground for mold, even in cold weather. We always recommend hiring a professional team to help repair water damage the right way. This is especially true because moisture often remains even after all the visible water is gone.
Do Pipes Freeze In Florida?
Sure the team at Cam Plumbing gets to enjoy some of the most wonderful weather in the country, with ordinarily mild winters. And yes, we have our hurricane emergency bags packed, alligator handbooks read, and bottles of sunscreen in every vehicle. However, we don’t really spend much time preparing or thinking about frozen plumbing because cold weather is rare in sunny Southwest Florida. Unfortunately, sometimes mother nature surprises us with a temperature drop below freezing! While these temperature drops don’t last long, they can still lead to cracked and frozen pipes!
Florida homes are often more vulnerable to frozen or burst pipes because homeowners do not think about properly insulating their pipes. In addition, pipes are usually placed in unprotected areas (even outdoors). So when abnormally cold weather hits, the water in the pipes freezes.
Surprisingly, and often less known, pipes can burst in warm weather too! Extreme temperatures and high water demands can make your pipes more vulnerable and susceptible to bursts. Therefore, it is essential to perform regular maintenance for your pipes to prevent problems!
Stand Back, Frozen Pipes!
If you encounter a plumbing emergency, the licensed and professional team at Cam Plumbing is here to help! For homeowners in Southwest Florida, we are here to provide 24/5 solutions to your plumbing problems! If there is a cold snap in your future, give us a call to make sure your pipes are ready!
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