Keep Your Pipes from Freezing This Winter
Winter is right around the corner, so you're probably winterizing your house now, before it gets really cold. It may be tempting to turn the heat down to save money on your heating costs, but turning it down too low can put your pipes at risk of freezing, which can spell disaster to your home. After all, freezing pipes can lead to burst pipes, which can lead to water damage.
Preventing the Freeze
When a pipe freezes, it can break and send water everywhere. If you don’t get everything dried right away, you can end up with damaged drywall, damaged flooring and even mold if the water is left too long. It’s a challenge because even though you can see some pipes in your house, you can’t see them all because they are often behind the wall or in the basement where you might not think to go. Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid a freezing pipes disaster.
- Insulate the pipes you can see (under sinks, for example) with pipe insulation. This is easy to do, inexpensive and you can find pipe insulation at most home improvement stores.
- Disconnect outdoor water hoses and cover outdoor faucets with insulated covers. These can also be found in home improvement stores. If you have an underground sprinkler system, makes sure to get that winterized as well.
- Keep your house warm enough so indoor pipes don't freeze. Ideally, your thermostat should be set no lower than 55 degrees F.
- If pipes are close to exterior walls, keep them warm by opening cabinet doors so warm air can circulate around them.
- Even the smallest amount of running water can prevent your pipes from freezing, so if temperatures are expected to be extremely low, let an indoor faucet drip.
- If you'll be gone for an extended period of time, turn off your water supply—just make sure it's drained first because any excess water in the pipes can freeze and cause them to burst.
What to Do if it’s Too Late
It happened—you turned on a faucet and very little or no water came out. Unless you didn’t pay your water bill, there's a good chance your pipes froze. To thaw them, the first and most important thing you should do is turn off the main water valve to the house. Next turn on all the faucets in the house. In addition, never use an open flame to warm the frozen pipes. Try one of these methods instead:
- Use a blow dryer on them, but keep the cords away from where water will come out when the pipes thaw.
- Wrap a warm towel around the affected pipe, then wrap a heating pad around the towel. Power cords and water are a bad combo, so keep the cord away from the pipe so water doesn't touch it as it melts.
- Put a space heater in the area of your basement that is under the room with the frozen pipe, but operate it safely.
- If you don't know where the frozen pipe is, or it's in an area you can't get to, you'll need to call a plumber.
If a frozen pipe does burst, turn off the water supply to your house immediately and try to get all the water dried up to avoid more damage. It's also a good idea for all the adults in your household know where the main shutoff valve to the house is in case you aren't home when this happens. As always, it's a good idea to review your coverage for burst pipes and water damage with your agent before anything happens.