As snow begins to fly in the air, it’s time to make sure your house is ready for winter. That includes making sure you avoid frozen water pipes. Below are several tips you can take to avoid the hassles and costs associated with frozen water pipes.
- Do a visual inspection of your home’s exterior. Seal any you see, and look for air leaks close to the pipes. If there is cold air leaking in even through a tiny space, pipes can freeze quickly and burst. Every leak should be sealed properly with insulation or caulk.
- Turn up the thermostat to 65 degrees or higher during the winter. Temperatures in the attic or behind the walls can become cold enough to let the pipes freeze if the thermostat is turned lower than this.
- Put outdoor hoses away before temperatures drop in the winter months, and then shut off the indoor valve.
- Keep one faucet on in the home at all times, but set it so it will only drip warm water slowly. Even the smallest trickle can aid in preventing pipes from freezing. Whenever possible, use a faucet that is located on an outside wall.
- Bundle up pipes before cold temperatures arrive. Use insulation in attics, garages and crawl spaces. Be generous with the insulation, because more protection means pipes are less likely to burst.
- Wrap high-risk pipes (i.e. those in an unheated garage) with heat cables or heat tape. Place this around pipes that are at a higher risk of bursting. (Before using any of these types of products, make sure they are approved by testing organizations. Follow the installation instructions carefully.)
- When leaving the home for any period of time, have someone check on it daily when temperatures drop significantly. They should be on the lookout for water damage, standing water or just confirmation that a faucet has been left dripping and that the house is warm enough to prevent frozen pipes. If this is not possible and you know severe temperatures are coming during your absence, consider draining your water system and shut it off before leaving.
- Know how to spot a frozen pipe. If the faucet is turned on but water does not come out, this is a sign that the pipe is frozen. Leave the faucet on. It is possible to thaw a frozen pipe with a hair dryer or space heater. Start close to the faucet, and work toward the coldest section of the pipe. Avoid using any open flames or torches to defrost pipes.
- In case of bursting pipe: Turn the water off at your home’s main shutoff valve. Turn all your home’s faucets on, and call a plumber immediately. Since cold temperatures can coincide with winter vacations, if you’ve been gone a few days, you could be walking in to a lot of damage. If damage is significant enough, take photos of the damage in case you decide to file a claim on your homeowners’ insurance.