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Every winter, many households throughout the United States have to deal with frozen pipes. Some people think frozen pipes aren’t a serious problem, but frozen or bust pipes can cause significant damage. According to insurance industry studies, the water damage caused by frozen and broken water pipes ranks second (following hurricanes) in the number of impacted homes each year, as well as second in damage costs. An average of 250,000 homes in the United States suffers some form of frozen or burst pipe damage and the estimated combined costs of these damages are between $400 to $500 million annually.
What Are Frozen Pipes?
Freezing temperatures sometimes cause water pipes to freeze. When pipes freeze, there is pressure build-up inside the pipe, which can sometimes lead to a burst pipe. If there’s no one around to turn off the water immediately after the pipe bursts, it can lead to severe flooding, which will require professional plumbing service.
Even if your frozen pipes don’t burst, they can disturb day-to-day life. Your frozen pipes will mean zero or very little water is coming out of your faucets. This can disrupt your ability to cook, shower, go to the washroom, wash dishes, and do laundry.
Follow these tips to prevent your pipes from freezing:
Tip #1: Turn on the Heat
If you plan to leave your house for a long time during a cold period, make sure the heat is kept on in your home. Some homeowners hear this advice and worry about the utility bill costs. However, paying for plumbing service in the aftermath of a burst pipe can be significantly more expensive than an increased heating bill.
Fortunately, the heat doesn’t have to be turned on very high. It’s generally recommended setting it above 50 F. This should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and reduce the risk of the water in the pipes freezing.
Tip #2: Keep the Faucet Dripping
If you’ve had your pipes freeze before and you’re concerned it will happen again, you can leave the faucet slightly open so that there is a slow drip. This helps to relieve the pressure in the piping system. When a pipe freezes, it’s the pressure buildup that causes a burst. Allowing the faucet to drip reduces pressure and therefore reduces the risk of a burst pipe.
Tip #3: Leave Interior Doors Open
In the majority of homes, pipes are located in cabinets. As temperatures lower, it can be a good idea to keep cabinet doors open, so the heat from the home seeps into the pipes. Additionally, keeping all interior doors open throughout the house can allow the heat to travel throughout the house.
Tip #4: Eliminate Gaps
Before winter sets in, take a walk through your home and find any gaps around holes where pipes run through the walls or floors. Use spray foam insulation or caulk to seal these gaps. Ideally, it’s best to seal holes on both the exterior and interior sides of the floor or wall. If this is too challenging for you to take on, you can call your local plumber for plumbing service. A professional may be able to identify gaps that you missed, doing a more thorough job.
Tip #5: Use Heating Tape
You can purchase heating tape at your local hardware store. This useful tool should be applied directly onto pipes and works to warm up your pipes during cold seasons. Usually, it’s best to use heating tape on areas of your piping that are at high risk for freezing, such as the short sections of piping. After installing the tape, continue to monitor your pipes for any signs of problems.
There are two main types of heating tape. The first kind turns on and off on its own, sensing when the pipes need heat. The second type of heating tape needs to be plugged in and turned off. This type doesn’t have an automatic on and off switch, and like a space heater, it comes with some risk. Always do your research before purchasing and using either of these products. If you’re uncertain if heating tape is the right solution for you, schedule a plumbing service for a winter pipe inspection. Consult with your plumber if heating tape is the best route to take for your pipes.
Tip #6: Pipe Insulation
Pipes in areas that have poor insulation, such as basements, may require extra padding to reduce the risk of freezing. Pipe insulation can be done with fiberglass sleeves or foam rubber. Insulation is a simple option for exposed pipes but becomes more ticky for hidden canals. To be safe, it’s best to invest in a professional plumbing service for your pipe insulation.
While pipe insulation can help reduce the risk of water freezing, it will not eliminate the risk of frozen pipes if the pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures for a long time. Hire a plumbing service inspection and ask the professionals if pipe insulations are the best route for you to take.
How to Tell if Your Pipes Are Frozen
Some common signs that your pipes may be frozen are:
- There is a strange smell from the faucet or drain
- Very little or no water is coming out of the pipes
- There is visible frost on the pipes
- The temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit
What to Do When You Have Frozen Pipes
Never try to handle frozen pipes on your own. You can mistakenly de-thaw them in a way that will cause additional pressure to collect, and the pipes will burst. Always call a professional plumber to handle frozen pipes.
bluefrog Plumbing + Drain Provides Plumbing Services to San Antonio, TX
bluefrog Plumbing + Drain is a national professional plumbing organization offering customers high-quality plumbing services. The bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of San Antonio, TX branch has been serving its community for years. Residents of San Antonio, TX can turn to bluefrog for a variety of plumbing services including:
- Drain cleaning
- Water heater repairs and installations
- Tankless water heaters repair and installations
- Sewers & water line inspection
- Water softeners
- Emergency plumbing available 24/7
- Sump pumps
- Gas lines
Contact bluefrog Plumbing + Drain for plumbing service today!