How to Prevent Pipes From Freezing
There are many wonderful things to look forward to with the colder seasons, like fall foliage, pumpkin spice treats, and blissful snow days.
Bursting pipes are not one of them.
Frozen pipes are some of the biggest headaches in the colder seasons. Indeed, they are one of the top causes of property damage during winter. Not only will a burst pipe make your home temporarily uninhabitable, but also the damage can cost several thousands of dollars.
Luckily, there are some easy and effective ways to prevent frozen pipes. Read on for our tips for winterizing your home and protecting your pipes.
How Do Pipes Freeze?
Frozen pipes are an inevitable risk when temperatures plummet to below freezing.
When temperatures drop, the water running through your pipes begins to freeze. Condensation and residual water droplets are even more at risk of freezing than running water. The lack of water flow makes built-up droplets more vulnerable to cold temperatures.
When liquid freezes, it also expands.
Just think about what happens when you put a water bottle in the freezer—the plastic bulges as the now-frozen water pushes the packaging to its limits. The same principle applies to the pipes in your home.
As frost and ice accumulate in the pipes, these frozen sections force the rising pressure “downstream” towards the faucets. Somewhere between the ice blockage and the pipe’s opening, the built-up pressure becomes too intense. Without a way to release pressure, the pipe bursts.
Frozen water pipes are more than a mere inconvenience that restricts water flow. They are also hazardous, leading to the risk of leaks and flooding once the pressure gets so strong that they rupture.
Which Pipes Are Most Likely to Freeze?
Pipes located either outside or in unheated interior spaces of your home are the most likely to experience ice blockages. All those pipes in your garage, basement, or attic are the most compromised. Unsurprisingly, experts calculate that 35-40% of all burst pipes are due to ice blockages originating in the basement.
However, that doesn’t mean the inside of your home is safe from the risk of freezing. Frigid water running through your pipes can cause them to freeze and rupture. The cold air that comes in from outside is also a risk. All it takes is one or two small holes or cracks letting outside air seep through for an ice blockage to form. Even intentional holes—like those meant for telephone, internet, and cable lines—expose nearby pipes to the wind chill.
Geography is also a crucial factor to consider. Northern climates that get snow and ice regularly will face these risks more frequently. However, these homes also tend to have winterized solutions for their water systems.
On the other hand, homes in warmer, southern regions are often unprepared for random cold snaps. When one occurs, they may not be ready for the burst pipes.
What Is the Minimum Temperature to Keep Pipes From Freezing?
Typically, pipes will freeze when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers have determined that 20 degrees is the temperature alert threshold.
There are other factors to keep in mind besides just temperature, though. Exposure to wind chill and other elements can kickstart the water freezing process even if air temperatures are above 20 degrees.
As mentioned above, even warm, heated interior spaces can present freeze hazards if any cracks or small openings let in wind, frost, and cold air.
For your safety, it’s best not to wait until temperatures drop below 20 degrees to insulate and safeguard your pipes. Instead, maintain indoor temperatures to around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing
1. Insulate Pipes
Insulating your pipes allows them to withstand cold temperatures better. It can be pricey, though, so you might want to be strategic about which areas you insulate. It’s best to prioritize the exposed exterior ones first.
Makeshift insulation, such as wadded up newspaper, heating tape, or even regular duct tape, can work in a pinch, too, as a temporary measure.
2. Close Exterior Doors
Aside from insulation, closed doors are the best way to keep out the cold air.
Garage doors and basement bulkheads accidentally left open can let in cold air drafts, exposing the pipes in those areas to the outside elements.
Closing exterior doors can help to prevent this issue and also save on your heating bill.
3. Open Interior Doors
Opening interior doors helps to circulate warm air throughout the entire home. By doing so, you can prevent the heat from getting trapped in one area of your home.
Regulating indoor temperatures ensures that the pipes in all the rooms are sufficiently above the temperature alert threshold.
4. Let the Faucets Drip
Moving water is far less likely to freeze, so you’ll want to keep it flowing.
This tip is best when temperatures drop below freezing. It doesn’t need to be a heavy stream, but letting your faucets drip a little can keep the flow going enough to stop a freeze.
It might not sound appealing when you think about your water bill, but the cost of letting the faucets drip a little is substantially lower than replacing a burst pipe and restoring your home after water damage.
5. Increase the Heat
Because of costly heating prices, many families turn down the heat when they are out of the house or asleep at night. However, keeping your home’s temperature too low can be more costly.
A consistently warm temperature can stop a freeze and keep your pipes warm enough to stop ice blockages from forming. It’s best to keep the temperature consistent as pipes don’t react well to sudden temperature fluctuations.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to keeping your pipes protected. Often, you might not even be aware that your pipes have become exposed to freezing conditions and put your home at risk.
While there are many things that you can do on your own to make sure your pipes are up to the task of weathering a cold winter season, calling in an expert to help never hurts.
At All Dry USA, we are a team of home damage and restoration professionals. Our experts can spot and take care of all the hidden exposure points that lead to frozen and bursting pipes. And if the worst already has happened, we can offer fast and efficient water damage restoration and mold remediation.
For more tips on winterizing your home, give us a call today.