Low temperatures and high winds during the winter months can cause plumbing pipes to freeze inside the wall. Vacant homes without perpetual heat can also cause pipes to freeze. The consequences of frozen pipes can be very serious and extremely expensive to repair. Also, since cold weather tends to affect many people within a particular region, plumbing services are often in high demand and parts are hard to come by. A burst water main can potentially leave you high and dry for days on end. Take the following steps to ensure your water pipes survive the cold weather.
Always leave a dripping faucet on every fixture in your home if you anticipate a frost coming. This is especially true for faucets that have supply lines running outside of your home, even if only for a short period. When water is in motion, it is much more difficult to freeze than water that is standing still inside a pipe.
Shut off water from outside faucets before freezing hits. Also, after turning off the main water supply, flush all the water from the faucet to make sure all pipes are empty. When water freezes inside a pipe and then thaws when the weather warms up again, the ice expands and is very likely to break the pipe. This is one of the most common scenarios faced by hundreds of thousands of people each spring.
If you have cabinets containing pipes adjacent to outside walls, leave the cabinet doors open during a freeze. An enclosed space like under the sink, especially if it faces an outside wall, will be less exposed to heat and therefore much more likely to freeze in cold weather. Leaving cabinet doors open will allow the heat from your home to prevent pipes from freezing.
It is imperative that you insulate as much as you can before the winter months arrive. This includes all plumbing that is exposed to the outside elements and, where possible, also pipes inside the walls. Before the first big freeze of winter, people rush to the hardware store, often quickly stripping all the insulation off their pipes. Be sure to plan ahead so you don’t get caught in a bad situation.
If you plan to leave your home unattended for any period of time during the cold months of the year, it is very important to plan accordingly. Make sure you have a working thermostat that is set to keep the house at the right temperature. It’s also a good idea to have a neighbor check on your house while you’re away, as a complete freeze-up of pipes resulting from a faulty heating system can be horrible.
If you have frozen pipes that need immediate attention, there are a few steps you can take before the plumber arrives, including turning up the heat in the room, exposing the pipe, and, if available, aiming a space heater at the frozen pipe.
Remember, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your plumbing survives even the harshest of winters.