How-To

30 Days of Preparing for Severe Winter Weather Day 12: How Do I Prevent My Pipes From Freezing?

Picture shows a frozen outdoor water pipe.

It was the last week of January 2011 and all of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex was—even to people like myself who don’t like sports—buzzing with excitement for the upcoming Super Bowl. We were about to play host to the biggest day of the year in sports. A brand spanking new Cowboys Stadium that not only impressed us, it filled us with pride. I anticipated it being an exciting week. However, Mother Nature had another plan. On Tuesday, February 1, she dumped an incredible amount of snow and ice covering the entire Metroplex. We experienced the worst winter storm I had ever seen during my entire Texas life. Fortunately, I was prepared with food, water, lighting and blankets. However, my pipes freezing had not even crossed my mind. Though I did not experience a blackout like some of my friends,, I did end up with a watery mess in the kitchen. No plumbers were able to get to my house until the icy roads thawed. They were sympathetic, when they finally arrived, offering me some sound advice for the next time temperatures fell below freezing.

Picture shows a frozen outdoor water pipe.
Outdoor pipes, pipes along exterior walls and ones in areas without heating.

When water freezes, it expands creating pressure between the ice and a closed faucet. The mounting pressure on both copper and plastic pipes can cause a crack or burst, resulting in severe flooding and damage to your home.

Pipes can freeze at 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the smallest crack in a pipe can spill 250 gallons of water a day.

Outdoor pipes, pipes along exterior walls and ones in areas without heating—such as basements and crawl spaces—are more at risk of freezing.

Prevention

When temps are going to fall, there are a few things you can do to protect your pipes from freezing.

  1. Insulate all pipes, indoor and out with foam insulators, pipe covers, heat tape or heat cables.
  2. Drain all the water from pipes that go outside the house—including swimming pool pipes.
  3. Disconnect your garden hoses from outside spigots.
  4. Open cabinet doors under all sinks.
  5. Drip both the hot and cold side of the faucet.
  6. Calk cracks and holes close to pipes.
  7. Keep the thermostat at a consistent temperature day and night.
  8. Place an indoor heater or heat lamp near pipes most at risk.

If you suspect a pipe has frozen, you can attempt to thaw it out. A frozen pipe does not necessarily equal a burst pipe. Don’t let the thaw happen too quickly, this can cause a breakage. While thawing your pipe, keep the faucet open. The following are ways you can attempt to thaw a frozen pipe:

  1. Thaw the pipe with a blow dryer on the lowest setting by moving the blow dryer back and forth over the frozen area.
  2. Cover the pipe with towels soaked in hot water.
  3. Wrap an electric heating pad over the pipe.
  4. Heat it with a space heater.

Every two hours run water through your pipes at full blast to check for an ice blockage. If you suspect a pipe has burst:

  1. Leave the faucet on.
  2. Shut off the water at the main.
  3. Call a plumber.

If you will be travelling or away even for the weekend, it is safest to turn the water off at the main. Locate the main water valve and show everyone in the household how to turn off the water.

How do you prevent your pipes from freezing? Share your tips with others in the comment section. Be sure and come back tomorrow to learn how to prep your hunting rifle for storage. Did you miss yesterday’s post on staying hydrated? You can read it here.

[suzanne]

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