Pipe Prep for Winter Weather
Burst pipes due to a freeze can leave you, your family and your home in a state of crisis. Believe me, we say plenty of neighbors suffering with the effects after the February 2021 catastrophe. When water freezes in your pipes, it expands and that expansion can cause a rupture. Typically, the rupture doesn't occur at the point in the pipe where it's frozen but between the freeze and the faucet, bursting where pressure increases.
Let's Talk Prevention
If you live in an area not prone to freezing weather, take heed. One freeze during the winter months can result in repairs that cost a small fortune. Simple prevention can not only save you a lot of money, but the headache of off-season repairs.
Insulation: An obvious sign of diminished insulation is mold. Not only is it important to insulate your home, but you must insulate pipes in crawl spaces, attic and exterior connections. Ensure you only use products as intended, but rest assured that this is generally something you can take care of on your own.
Seal Air Leaks: Air leaks that allow cold air to flow inside the house can also lead to frozen pipes. Even small leaks can have a major impact. Check areas around your home where connections protrude, like washer/dryer vents, electrical wiring, jacks, cables and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to patch any gaps. Also consider weather stripping and caulk around crawl space doors.
Disconnect hoses: Before the frozen temperatures of winter hit, disconnect your outdoor garden hoses. If you're able, use the indoor valve to shut off water to pipes that lead to outdoor spigots not in use.
Set your Thermostat: Even if you're accustomed to turning your heat way down at night, try to keep it slightly elevated ambient temperature during the day and night. Major sways in temperature overnight could result in pipe damage.
Thawing Exposed Pipes
If you locate a freeze and the pipe is accessible, there are several options for thawing. Keep your faucet running and use one of the following methods until water begins to flow. Take extreme care when using any electrical devices around water, particularly if water is pooling.
Heat lamps and space heaters: Situated close enough to the pipe but far away from any standing water, you can use these in conjunction with aluminum foil on the walls to reflect heat to quickly thaw a freeze in the pipe while you monitor the flow of water.
Hairdryer: Perhaps the most common method for thawing pipes. Apply the heat to the end of the faucet and work your way backward, which provides an escape for ice, water and steam. Again, use precaution and avoid contact with any water.
Enclosed pipes are a bit more difficult when attempting to identify and thaw. More than likely, if you have a frozen enclosed pipe, it will be within an enclosed outside-facing wall.
Turn up the thermostat: Turning up the heat in the home will not help by leaps and bounds, but will help to prevent the expansion of ice. Continue to test faucets in different areas of the house.
Infrared: An infrared heat lamp at the area that you have located with a frozen pipe will be much more effective than a standard heat lamp. This type of heat can penetrate walls.
Remove a section: Most homeowners are reluctant to start cutting into walls or ceilings, but you may need to. The removal of some drywall is far less expensive than repairing water damage.
A tremendous amount of water can spill from a burst pipe and result in significant damage, which is why you must be on the lookout and take action. A little prevention can go a long way.