As Fall draws to a close you should be thinking about the coming winter, along with the colder temperatures. Is your home ready for the first frost? You can learn how to avoid frozen water pipes before it’s too late. A little common sense and planning will go a long way in protecting your home from water damage.
Over a quarter of a million homes will experience frozen pipes each winter. Not only are frozen pipes expensive to repair, your home and contents will likely become damaged. In a matter of minutes even a small cracked pipe can release over 200 gallons of water. As you can see a burst pipe inside a wall or crawlspace that goes undetected can do major damage to your home.
Why you don’t need frozen Pipes
Water damage may disrupt your life and wallet in ways you can’t imagine. Whether its water damage to your flooring or to drywall , a water leak can be an expensive repair.
Sub-zero temperatures and cold winds can wreak havoc on your water pipes because they are not protected. What can you do now to prepare for that first frost to ensure your pipes don’t freeze and burst this year?
Know where the main water shut off valve is to your home. This is because it will enable you to shut the water off to the house, should one of the pipes freeze and burst. The quicker you can get the water shut off, the less damage will be done. This will also give you time to call the plumber for help.
Determine where all the water pipes are located in your home. In most cases they will be in the crawl space, under your home or possibly in your attic. If your house is built on a concrete slab then most of the pipes will be contained in the concrete. In this case look for water pipes on any exterior walls. Once you’ve found exposed pipes, wrap them with insulation. The more insulation you can securely wrap around them, the less likely they are to freeze and possibly burst.
How to avoid water damage
- In extreme cold temperatures you may also want to use thermostatically-controlled heat cables commonly called a heat tape . These can be wrapped around the exposed water pipes and plugged into an electrical outlet. Ensure heating cables are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions because failing to do so may cause a fire. Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. independently tests and approves these cables, be sure to use only those which have been UL approved.
- Take the time to seal up any air leaks around the pipes. Air leaks may be allowing the cold air into the area where the pipes are exposed. Check around any electrical wiring which comes through the walls, dryer vents and the water pipes themselves. Seal the openings using a flexible insulation, caulk or expandable spray foam insulation. By blocking as much air as possible you’ll reduce the likelihood of the water pipes freezing or bursting.
- If your home has frost free exterior hose bibs, disconnect and remove all garden hoses which won’t be used during the winter. If your home is not equipped with frost free hose bibs, locate the shut off valve and shut it off. Remove your garden hoses and drain all the water from the faucet.
Quick tips to avoid freezing pipes
- If you must leave an exterior faucet active for whatever reason, remove the garden hose between uses. You can also put an insulated cap over the faucet to keep it from freezing.
- When the temperatures are expected to get below freezing, leave a trickle of hot and cold water running in at least one sink which is located on an exterior wall. This may be just enough to avoid causing damage due to freezing water pipes.
- Ensure that all cabinets on exterior walls that have un-insulated pipes inside them have the cabinet doors open. This will allow the warm air from the house to enter the cabinet and heat the water pipes. This should be enough heat to avoid the water pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat to your home set above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even if you’re not going to be home. If you are away from your home for an extended amount of time during the winter, ask a neighbor to check on your house. Having a family member or neighbor checking in can help in detecting any unforeseen problems.
If you have a vacation home you should have a Winter maintenance program in place. There are companies that you can hire for winterizing and property inspections on vacant properties. No one wants to experience a burst water pipe. You’ll be well on your way to avoiding frozen pipes because of a little preventative house maintenance.
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Thank you Rick