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Just about everyone is saying that the recent weather in San Antonio, TX, is a “once in a century” type of event, but how can we be sure? More importantly, even if it is, does that mean we can get back to “business as usual” and assume it will never happen again? Well, plumbers can help answer these questions and get you ready for any weather.
The answers to those two questions are we have no way of knowing and that means we should assume it will be a regular part of our lives or we might be desperately calling plumbers for emergency help.
Here are some tips to help you prepare (even if you never have to worry about subzero temperatures again) for the possibility your pipes could freeze, even in San Antonio, TX.
Freezing Weather Can Mean Frozen Pipes
That sounds obvious but many people assume that if they only occasionally must deal with freezing temperatures, they have nothing to worry about. That keeps plumbers in business during cold spells.
The reality is that depending on how long the freezing temperatures are around, how cold it gets, and how protected or unprotected your pipes are, frozen pipes can happen any time the temperature gets below the freezing point.
This is particularly true if the temperature remains frozen for an extended period. It is not well known, but plumbers will tell you that if the temperature was below freezing long enough, pipes can still freeze even after freezing temperatures warm above freezing. In rare cases, an accompanying wind can lead to frozen pipes if the ambient temperature is at or below freezing.
Keep the Heat On if Possible
One of the problems of the recent freezing weather in San Antonio was that like much of the state, the city lost power. There really is not a lot you can do if your power goes out, but if you have power, you should make sure the heat is on and consistent.
Keeping your home a minimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit should be a standard throughout winter. This is especially true if you are leaving your home for an extended period. While pipes can still freeze if it gets very cold, 68 degrees ensures that your internal pipes will not freeze if the temperature hovers around freezing or only dips a few degrees below the freezing point.
Drain and Shut Off Water to External Pipes
As soon as it no longer makes sense to water your lawn or plants outside, you should have plumbers drain your external water pipes and shut them off by opening the external faucet and leaving it open. Turn the water to the external faucet off while it is open and let it drain naturally and leave it open to allow for any excess water to drain.
Open Cabinet Doors Below Sinks
The pipes below your sinks generally sit in poorly insulated pockets where there is little or no heat. If it’s extremely cold, this can lead to them freezing. Plumbers suggest opening the cabinet doors will lead to the air around those pipes becoming room temperature.
Leave a Faucet On
Generally, this should be done before you go to bed so that water continues to flow through your pipes while you are asleep. Faucets that are rarely used, are on the outside wall of your home, have piping in crawl spaces, or are in an isolated part of your home should be left on whenever they will not be used for an extended period.
You do not have to leave them on at maximum flow. You should aim for a constant, but small flow of water, just enough to keep water moving through the pipes, which helps prevent the water in the pipes from freezing. If the temperature outside is extremely cold (below 20 degrees Fahrenheit,) you should increase the flow of water that you leave on.
If you have water-based, baseboard heat, plumbers may suggest you should also keep the heat on to keep water moving through the pipes as these can freeze and burst as well.
Seal Up Your Home
This will not prevent frozen pipes so much as it will make sure your home stays at a relatively stable temperature, which, if you keep it at 68, should mean that your pipes do not freeze. Any area of your home that can lead to a reduced ambient temperature should be sealed, if possible, or, as in the case of a door, access should be controlled, and it should only be open when necessary.
Use Heating Tape on Pipes
Any pipes that are on the external wall of your home, in a crawl space, or in an unheated or isolated part of your home should be wrapped in heating tape. This can prevent the liquid in the pipes from reaching the freezing point.
Turn Off Your Water
This is an extreme step, but if you are leaving town or are worried your pipes will freeze you can drain your system by turning the faucets on and turning off the main water supply. Remember to flush your toilets once after the water is off to relieve pressure leading into the toilet well.
Once drained, your pipes should not leak. If this is your plan, you should run it by your plumbers just in case there is some reason you should not turn off your water.
If You Have Frozen Pipes
The best way to thaw frozen pipes is to use a hairdryer on the frozen section if there is no standing water where you will be thawing the pipe. Another tactic is to wrap the pipe in hot towels that have been soaked in water heated on the stove; if you do this, make sure the faucet is left open so melting water can trickle out.
If you have frozen or burst pipes, give the plumbers at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of San Antonio today!