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3 Causes of Frozen Pipes and How to Avoid Them

Frozen Pipe
Rapid lowering of the outdoor temperature is one cause of frozen household plumbing pipes, but there's not much you can do about the weather. You can control the other two causes of frozen pipes, which are insufficient insulation and too-low thermostat settings. Here's what you should know to avoid frozen pipes.

Pay Attention to the Weather Forecast

You can't make the cold weather go away, but you can stay aware of winter weather trends. During the winter months, pay attention to the temperature forecast every day. When temperatures will drop suddenly, or a long cold snap is expected in your area, take care of your pipes.

Drain spigots and hoses, since a full spigot can freeze and burst or cause its connecting pipe to burst. Remove outside hoses from exterior spigots. Shut off the water supply to all exterior fixtures.

If temperatures will fall hard or will remain frigid for days, run a pencil-lead-thin trickle of hot and cold water to keep water from freezing in your susceptible plumbing lines.  Allow the dripping water to flow through any pipe that has a high risk of freezing.

Pipes that are located along exterior walls are considered at high risk of freezing and should be allowed to drip. Pipes that run through unheated areas should also be turned on to a trickle.

Seal Everything

When there are drafts and other sources of cold air in your home, even your indoor pipes can freeze during deep cold snaps. Prevent your indoor, crawlspace, and basement pipes from freezing with a smart insulation plan.

Insulation of pipes starts by insulating your entire home. Cold air can enter your home from any gap or crack, and freezing-temperature air doesn't take long to affect your pipes. Seal up all window and door frames with caulk. Insulate attics, basements, and crawl spaces where water lines run.

Exposed pipes located in cold rooms and unheated spaces have the highest risk of freezing and bursting. Insulate vulnerable pipes with specialty foam. Tube-shaped insulating foam is simple to cut to size and wrap around pipes.

To be doubly safe, wrap all of your exposed plumbing pipes in thermostatically controlled heat cables or specialty heat tape. Read the directions carefully, since some pipe-heating tapes and cables are intended for indoor use only.

Keep the Heat On

You can save a lot of money on winter energy costs by only heating small areas of your home. However, if you don't heat the rooms that house your plumbing pipes, prepare to spend any heating money you save on frozen plumbing repairs and worse.

 A 1/8-inch crack in a water supply pipe can discharge 250 gallons of water per day. Suddenly, a small leak becomes a flood, and water saturates flooring, ceilings, and more.

Protect your home from a pipe-related flood event by setting your thermostat to no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to go on vacation for an extended period of time in winter, keep the heat running no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit while you're gone.

Alternatively, shut off your water main and drain all of your water supply lines before going out of town. Be aware that your indoor sprinkler system may not work in the event of a fire.

Keep heat flowing to any plumbing pipes located under cabinets and in closets. Open the closet and cabinet doors to expose the pipes to heated room air. Uninsulated pipes near exterior walls are the most vulnerable to freezing under cabinets, so make sure they receive some heated air throughout the day and night.

Overnight temperatures can dip dangerously low. Keep your thermostat at a constant temperature all night to ensure that water in your pipes remains above freezing. It may be more efficient to lower heating temperatures at night, but your pipes could freeze while you sleep. The resulting mess is not worth a bit of savings on the power or gas bill.

If your pipes freeze or burst this winter, contact Accurate Plumbing for professional, timely repairs. We offer 24-hour emergency services to our existing clients, so call us today to inspect or repair your plumbing issues before winter comes calling.