An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to home plumbing; here are a few tips to prevent frozen pipes this winter.
Water freezing in your home’s pipes is a costly, inconvenient plumbing emergency for many home-owners—even more so if the cold weather comes at an unexpected time. The best advice is to try to make sure you’re ready for cold weather before it happens. Here are a few tips that might help you avoid this messy problem.
What causes frozen pipes to burst?
When water in pipes freezes, it expands and exerts a great deal of pressure on the plastic or metal pipe from the inside. It can break out of whatever space is confining it, even if the material is strong and otherwise durable. The pipes that freeze and break most frequently are those exposed to exterior cold, such as sprinkler lines, pipes leading to and from pools, and water supply lines in unheated parts of the home, such as storage sheds, garages, attics, crawlspaces, basements, and other rooms that may be exposed to below-zero temperatures. Pipes that run along exterior walls inside the home can also be at risk for freezing.
An ounce of prevention
There are ways to avoid having frozen pipes burst on your property and in your home. First, drain your pool or outdoor hot tub according to the manufacturer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in the water lines. Antifreeze is toxic to humans, animals, and plant life and it can seep into the water table through the pipes. It is crucial to avoid using it unless specifically instructed to do so by the manufacturer or plumber.
Second, turn off the inside water valve that supplies outdoor hose attachments, but leave the outdoor tap open so residual water can leak out of the pipe and oxygen can be released. When the weather is unexpectedly very cold outside, let water run constantly through pipes with exterior exposure by opening the tap ever so slightly, so the water can drip on a continuous basis. Keeping water running through those pipes can help avoid freezing when you’re caught off guard and haven’t prepared them for winter.
A word of advice
Even if you think it’s a good idea to turn down the heat at night to keep your energy bill down, don’t lower the temperature too much when it’s very cold out. Turning the heat down at night, when it’s coldest, increases the chance of frozen pipes and bursting. In addition, when it’s very cold out, leave your garage door shut at all times to ensure any pipes in the garage don’t freeze. Inversely, during a cold snap, leave open kitchen and bathroom cupboards to let warm air into those spaces and keep pipes from freezing. If you’re not sure you've drained things properly, be sure to consult a local plumber. A plumber is always the best source of advice for anything involving your pipes and fixtures.
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