Unlike some other inconveniences of winter, such as higher electric bills and snowed-in driveways, frozen water pipes present a serious risk to the homeowner. A frequent problem during cold winter months, if not thawed immediately, frozen water pipes can burst, resulting in extensive flooding and water damage to your home.
The following presents some common reasons why your water pipes may freeze and suggests ways to prevent an emergency call to the plumber.
Water pipes are generally more likely to freeze when the temperature of the outdoor air falls below freezing for a number of days and the following circumstances exist:
- Pipes are located in an unheated basement, attic or crawl space.
- Pipes are uninsulated and located against outside walls of the house or near windows.
- Pipes are located near openings or cracks in the walls of the house and confronted with cold outside air.
- Pipes are located in kitchen and bathroom cabinets and cut off from room temperature air.
When these pipes come in contact with freezing air, the water flowing through such pipes freeze, and, if left untreated, will inevitably burst, resulting is substantial damage, cost and the need for a plumber.
Despite factors that make pipes more likely to freeze, the occurrence of frozen water pipes can be reduced by preventative measures taken both before and during the onset of cold weather. Some suggestions include:
- Turn off all outside faucets and drain all water pipes leading to such faucets.
- Check your house for any openings or cracks through which outside cold air can enter. Seal any such openings located near water pipes.
- Make sure that all pipes located in outside walls, unheated attics and basements, or near windows are properly insulated, or, in the alternative, wrap pipes with electrical heating tape. Insulation made especially for water pipes, and "UL Listed" electrical heating tape can be purchased at a home supply center or your local hardware store, and can be installed by a licensed plumber.
- Ensure that pipes are properly ventilated so that warmer air is able to circulate around them.
- Keep garage doors closed if any water pipes are located within the garage.
- Keep bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors open so as to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
- Let water trickle slightly from any faucets served by exposed pipes.
- Keep the heat on in your home, whether on not the house is occupied.
- If you are traveling or leaving your house for an extended period of time, make sure that the heat remains on in your home and is set to no lower than 55ºF, make arrangements for a friend or neighbor to check your house each day to make sure that it is properly heated, and turn off your home’s main water supply and drain all water pipes of excess water.
If, despite taking of the foregoing precautions, your water pipes still freeze, they will need to be thawed immediately, either by yourself, or with the assistance of a plumber.