Keep an Eye on Pipes Throughout the Winter
Poor insulation, thermostats set too low and a quick drop in temperature, especially below 20 degrees or less, require you to pay attention to the plumbing pipes in your home.
Not doing so can lead to frozen and then broken pipes, and possibly a flooded home.
Here’s a guide on how to prevent frozen pipes and steps to take if the plumbing pipes in your home do freeze.
Remember, if you have a broken pipe, call a reliable, licensed plumber as soon as possible.
Taking Preventive Steps Can Reduce or Eliminate the Risk of Frozen Pipes
• Insulate hot and cold pipes in the basement, attic and/ or garage with snap on insulation or pipe sleeves. Ensure a tight fit, without gaps. Or, wrap UL approved heating tape (found in hardware stores) around pipes. Read instructions carefully to avoid setting a fire.
• Ensure proper insulation in any areas lacking heating like garages, attics or exterior walls. You might need to add more insulation to get a higher temperature in the area where a pipe consistently freezes.
• Keep an eye on pipes on an outside wall. Trickle or drip both hot and cold faucets, especially in the kitchen or bathrooms on outside walls. [Single lever faucets should be set to the center so both the cold and hot water drips.] Trickling water keeps water moving through pipes and relieves built-up pressure in pipes.
• Circulate warm air around pipes by opening cabinet doors, especially under kitchen and bathroom sinks located on exterior walls. Remove any harmful cleaners or chemicals that children or pets could get into.
• Maintain a consistent home temperature day and night.
• Never set the temperature lower than 55 degrees, if you are gone for long periods of time.
• Keep the furnace fan running continuously to circulate air.
• Open interior doors in the house so air can flow freely throughout the space.
• Make sure the garage door closed.
• Set the washing machine on warm and start the fill cycle every so often for water to run through the pipes, if there isn’t a faucet in the laundry room to drip and it’s on an outside wall.
• Turn off the outdoor sprinkler system and blow air through the lines to drain water. If you don’t know how to do this, hire a professional company to turn your sprinkler system on and off.
• Drain your swimming pool supply lines, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Never put anti-freeze in these lines, unless directed.
• Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
• Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
• Close and weather strip all exterior basement windows and doors.
• Fix broken windows or poorly fitting doors that allow a lot of heat loss.
• Caulk any holes or cracks that exist near pipes on both interior and exterior walls. This keeps cold air out and warm air in.
If the Pipes Do Freeze
If you suspect your pipes are frozen because only a trickle comes out of a faucet, or perhaps nothing comes out, be careful when the pipe thaws because it may flood your home.
Call 911 if a pipe has already burst and your home is flooding.
If a pipe has broken, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, which is usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house.
Do not use electrical appliances around standing water. You will get electrocuted.
Never use a blow torch, charcoal stove, a propane heater or high-wattage light bulbs to try to unfreeze pipes. These are likely to damage pipes or even start a fire. Open flames may also expose you to carbon monoxide.
• Open the faucet that the frozen pipe runs to before thawing. This allows the water to flow through the pipe and relieves any built-up pressure in the pipe.
• Apply heat to the frozen pipes that haven’t burst with an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hairdryer or portable space heater-keep this away from any flammable materials. You may also try wrapping the pipe with towels soaked in hot water. Always start heating from as close to the faucet as possible and work your way to the colder end of the pipe.
• Keep applying heat until the full water pressure is back.
• Call a licensed plumber if you can’t find the leak or unthaw the pipes.
• When pipes have thawed, check for leaks.
Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.
©Copyright. January 2018. Linda Leier Thomason.
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