One of the most annoying problems that you can face during the winter is frozen plumbing. When temperatures drop below freezing, the water that flows through your home’s pipes can freeze. Not only does this prevent water from flowing through your pipes, but it can also cause them to burst since water expands when it freezes. This can cause all kinds of additional problems such as flooding and water damage.
Repairing damage from a burst pipe can cost you thousands of dollars. Fortunately, keeping your pipes from freezing isn’t as difficult as you might think, even during the coldest winters. Here are some things that you can do to prevent frozen and burst pipes this season.
Insulate Exposed Pipes
You likely have exposed pipes in your basement, garage, or crawlspace, which are all places in a house that aren’t usually insulated or heated. These pipes are by far the most likely to freeze in your home, so pay close attention to them when it gets cold outside. The best way to keep them from freezing is to wrap them in pipe insulation, which can be purchased from most hardware or department stores. If you don’t have any pipe insulation or cannot make it to a store to buy any, some thick blankets or towels will do in a pinch. Simply wrap them around the exposed pipes and use some duct tape to hold them in place.
Set Up Space Heaters in Unheated Parts of Your House
If you’re worried about the exposed pipes in your house freezing even if you’ve insulated them from the cold, you can always set up some space heaters near them. This might cause your electricity bill to go up slightly, but the amount of extra money you spend won’t be anything compared to what you’d have to pay to repair a burst pipe.
Rethink Your Home’s Insulation
Insulation keeps cold air outside and warm air inside, which is crucial for maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home. Naturally, it can also help keep your pipes from freezing in the winter. Home insulation can last up to 80 years before it needs to be replaced, so consider installing new insulation if your current insulation is getting that old or if you notice drafts in your home that you didn’t before. If you have exposed pipes in your garage or your basement, consider having insulation installed in these places, especially if you spend a lot of time in them regularly.
Winterize Your Outdoor Water Faucets
When it’s time to put your hoses and sprinklers away for the winter, take some time to winterize your outdoor water faucets. Locate the shutoff valve for these faucets, shut off the water supply to them, and open the faucets themselves to allow any water still in them to drain out. Do this towards the end of fall when you’re reasonably sure you’re done watering your lawn for the year.
Don’t Turn Off Your Heat Completely
It is tempting to turn off your heat to save money if you’re going to be out of town this winter, but that is a bad idea if you don’t want to come home to frozen pipes or a flooded basement. Instead of turning off your heat completely, set your thermostat to around 12 degrees Celsius. That should be enough to keep your pipes from freezing while you’re gone. You might have a slightly higher energy bill to pay, but it will still be less expensive than the cost of fixing a burst pipe.
Let Your Faucets Trickle
Running water is less likely to freeze, so turn your faucets on to a trickle when it gets particularly cold at night. A trickle should be just enough to keep water flowing through your pipes and keep them from freezing, but it shouldn’t leave you with too high of a water bill.
Open Your Cabinets
If you have cabinets underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, open them to expose the plumbing inside of them to the warm air in your home. Just make sure that you move any cleaning products or other potentially harmful materials that you keep in your cabinets somewhere else if you have small children or pets in your home.
Know the Signs of Frozen Pipes
Winters in Canada can be brutally cold, and it’s possible to take every precaution and still have frozen pipes in your home. This is why you need to know the signs of frozen pipes before they cause a plumbing emergency.
The most obvious sign of frozen pipes is a lack of water coming from your faucets. This means that the water in your pipes is frozen solid and has created a blockage. In some cases, your faucets might work but lack any water pressure. You have some water coming through, but your plumbing is still at least partially blocked by ice.
Another sign of frozen pipes that isn’t discussed enough is a bad smell coming from your drains. This can be caused by a number of things, but ice blocking a pipe is definitely one of them. This smell is caused by food and waste that gets trapped in frozen pipes. You’ll likely notice this smell from several drains at once.
Finally, the biggest and most dangerous sign of frozen pipes is water damage in your home. This is the biggest danger of frozen pipes, and it’s something that can cost thousands of dollars to repair if it isn’t caught quickly. A burst pipe that is flooding your basement will be easy to spot, but tiny leaks might go undetected for some time. In these cases, look for water spots on your walls and floors, musty smells, and signs of mold growth.
What To Do When You Have Frozen Pipes
If you have frozen pipes in your home, you need to thaw them carefully so they don’t burst. First, turn on your faucets to get water moving through the pipes. Even if you can only manage a trickle, the water moving through the pipes will help them thaw faster. Next, slowly heat the frozen pipes with space heaters, hair dryers, electric heating pads, or towels soaked in hot water. Never use a blowtorch, portable stove, or anything that relies on an open flame to thaw your pipes. Apply your heat and keep your faucets open until your pipes thaw and you have full water pressure again.
If you don’t know where which pipes are frozen or you can’t access them, contact Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas and let us take a look. Our team of licensed plumbers can help find frozen pipes and repair any damage to your plumbing that the freezing might have caused. We offer 24/7 emergency plumbing services, so don’t hesitate to contact us at any time if you have a serious plumbing emergency.