In the United States, frozen pipes cause a huge amount of damage each year; unlike natural disasters, this disaster is largely preventable, according to State Farm. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help save yourself the mess, money, and aggravation frozen pipes cause.
Here are some helpful links to information on preventing roof ice dams and frozen water pipes, and what to do if either one happens to you.
Every winter season, the pipes in your home are at risk of damage from freezing conditions. Low temperatures can cause your water pipes to freeze, and in some cases burst. The following tips can help you safeguard your home before, during and after a pipe freezes.
- Disconnect all gardening hoses and install covers on all outside faucets.
- Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time.
- Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate.
- Wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. This can prevent freezing, especially for interior pipes that run along outside walls.
- Close all windows near water pipes.
- Heat your basement and consider weather sealing your windows.
- Insulate outside walls and unheated areas of your home.
The best way to not worry about your pipes freezing in the winter is to prepare for the disaster, and then hope that it doesn’t happen, wrote PD reporter Roxanne Washington in 2012. Angie’s List notes that a 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water in a day. But all it takes is a little bit of labor and a few supplies to skate through deep freezes without your home becoming a kiddie pool.
Surprisingly, ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs, says the Weather Channel. It’s not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream — between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It’s this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure.
If a faucet or pipe inside your house freezes, you can thaw it using a good hair dryer. (For safety purposes, avoid operating a hair dryer around standing water). To thaw a frozen pipe, heat water on the stove, soak towels in the hot water and wrap them around cold sections of the pipes. When thawing a pipe, start thawing it nearest to the faucet. Make sure the faucet is turned on so that melted water can drip out.
“Ice dams form when warmth from inside a home causes snow on the roof to melt and trickle to the roof’s edge, where it refreezes, blocking gutters and drains.” Water that is unable to drain off the roof seeps under shingles, damaging the roof and trickling into the home’s interior. Ice dams can damage ceilings, walls and flooring. Giant icicles hanging from your home’s eaves are a sign of potential trouble.
Tuesday’s blog post about surviving winter’s hazards elicited comments about how to avoid frozen water pipes. A reader with the online handle 1olrocker said, “If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, the best way to prevent pipes from bursting is to turn your water off at the main, and open all faucets/showers/bathtubs full, and flush all toilets after turning the main line off. This gets all the water out of all your pipes. The only pressure left is before the main valve, which is usually low just above ground. Below ground is a constant 50 degrees or so. Then leave everything open while you’re gone.”
1olrocker continued, “Leaving the house at 68 is a great idea, but it does nothing for you if the power goes out, and in this weather that is a distinct possibility. When the power goes out, your furnace is out. Even if it’s gas. No furnace, no heat. With this weather your pipes could freeze quickly.”
Another commenter suggested letting faucets drip and opening cabinet doors so that heat reaches the pipes.