Do you know how to prevent frozen pipes? Now that winter is here, you should make sure that you do. Heading off this problem could save you thousands of dollars in damage.
If the temperature gets low enough in your home, the water in your pipes can turn to ice. Then, that block prevents water from traveling to your sink, shower, or any other outlet.
At best, it’s an inconvenience. You’re without running water until you fix it. And fortunately, it’s not that difficult to remedy. But, you’re in for a world of trouble if you don’t catch it in time.
Pressure builds up behind the ice. More water backs up and begins stressing the pipe. Eventually, that metal’s going to give. And, you’re going to be all wet.
I wish that were just a saying, but it’s not. Once a pipe bursts, all that water comes flooding into your home. If you’re lucky, you’re in the house when it happens, and you can turn off your water main. But, you’d have to be The Flash to be quick enough to prevent any water damage.
Even the smallest pipes push a lot of water. A half-inch pipe moves 50 gallons of water per minute. The bigger ones? 3,400 gallons a minute for a four-inch pipe.
And, if it bursts behind a wall, it’s going to take you a while to realize it. During that time, the wood, insulation, and drywall are getting soaked.
Doom and gloom aside, the best solution here is prevention. Here’s what you need to know to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Pipes freeze at what temperature?
The magic number is 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature when pipes freeze, according to the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois. When it’s that cold outside, the pipes inside can get cold enough for the water in them to turn to ice.
That’s called the “temperature alert threshold.” Once you hit that, it’s time to keep an eye on things.
Out near the Twin Cities, you can hit that threshold any time between December and February. During those cold winter months, it gets as low as six degrees.
And places like Chanhassen or Woodbury, MN are a few degrees colder. They’re not as busy or congested as Minneapolis or St. Paul.
In fact, sudden drops in temperature make it more likely for pipes to freeze. You may get caught off-guard when it’s 18 degrees out, and your shower isn’t giving you any water.
Really, that’s what’ll get you. You’re not thinking about what you need to do when it’s suddenly 18 degrees or so. It’s rare for it to get that cold. But, when it does, you may not be prepared for a problem with your water.
So, keep an eye on the temperature. If you see single digits and teens in the forecast, it’s time to prepare.
Prepare for frozen pipes when the temperature is under 20 degrees
So, the weatherman is predicting a day that trips the threshold. Even if you’ve got those cozies on your pipes, you want to be sure you don’t wake up them iced over. Here’s how to prevent them:
- Leave your faucets running
- Keep your thermostat set high
- Open kitchen cabinets
Here’s a great trick to avoid this problem: keep the water running! Don’t worry about running up the bill. You don’t need it on full blast, or even close.
Instead, leave a few faucets running with a very light flow – just more than a drip. This keeps the water in the pipes moving. If the liquid is not at a standstill, it can’t build up and freeze.
Generally, you’ll want to do this overnight. That’s when it gets the coldest. And, you’re not going to notice a problem when you’re sleeping and not using the toilet, sink or shower.
On a similar note, leave your thermostat at your daytime temperature when you go to sleep. A lot of people set the temp a little lower at night. It’s really easy today with digital and smart thermostats.
Those can make the changes automatically. And, it makes sense: Why keep heating the whole house if everyone’s snuggled under blankets upstairs?
Well, when you’re at the threshold, you want to keep those pipes as warm as you are. Keeping the temp up in the house means keeping those pipes — even the ones just outside your home — warm enough to keep from freezing.
Finally, here’s a funny one: Open all your kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Remember, both those rooms have running water. So, there are pipes behind the walls.
When you open the cabinets, warm air from the house gets in there. And, that brings it closer to the pipes. That warmth will keep the water in them from freezing.
Insulate exposed pipes
The first step toward preventing frozen pipes is to insulate them. This doesn’t cost that much. And, it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. You do it once and then it’s always taken care of.
The most vulnerable pipes are the ones that are exposed. Or, they’re in an unheated part of the house, like an unfinished garage. They’re keeping less heat than the ones inside your wall. So, they’ll be the first to freeze.
The upside is, they’re also the easiest to reach. So, you can take care of these yourself.
Pipe insulators are pretty cheap. You’re looking at paying less than 65 cents per foot of piping. And, it’s super easy to install, if you can even call it that.
The insulation is just a hollow, round tube. The material is flexible, and it’s split down the middle. These look a lot like the pool noodles your kids use in the summertime.
All you need to do is slip the insulators over the pipes. And, that’s it! You do that, and you’ve taken a big step toward keeping them from freezing.
In fact, some of them look just like pool noodles because they’re pretty much the same thing. So, in a pinch, you can use old noodles if you can’t get out to a hardware store. If you’re having a problem regularly, you can upgrade to stronger insulation.
You can also consider more general insulation for your home. The better you’re retaining heat, the warmer your pipes will stay.
Are your pipes freezing regularly in the winter? Contact us, and we’ll improve your heating and insulation to help prevent this from happening.