Winter may be getting closer to its end, but some of the coldest temperatures of the year are still ahead of us. During severe winter temperatures, your plumbing system is one of the most vulnerable areas of your home. Frozen pipes can burst and cause major damage to your home. You can protect your home’s plumbing system from extreme winter conditions by following these tips.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
One of the most important tasks when preparing for extreme winter weather is keeping your plumbing system from freezing. Unprotected pipes may burst and result in water damage. The following tips will show you what you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter.
- Make sure that you keep a small amount of water running through the faucets. Prioritize faucets that run along the outside walls or connect to pipes that run through unprotected spaces.
- Locate the pipes in your basement and your crawl spaces. Wrap them with heat tape or insulated sleeves or covers.
- If your plumbing system has pipes located around your garage, remove all the snow and ice that gathers around your garage door. Make sure to keep the garage door shut tight.
- During the severe weather, make sure to keep all doors, windows, and chimney flues shut as well. At the same time, allow your cabinet and pantry doors to remain open. This tactic allows warm air to spread around the kitchen and bathroom.
- If your cupboards back up to an exterior wall, keep them open to allow the warm air to circulate.
- If your furniture is blocking your heating vents, rearrange it. You want to have open heat flow. If you have wood floor vents, you can remove them to improve the heat flow.
- Keep the thermostat temperature consistent as much as you can throughout the day. If you are leaving your home, hold the temperature to at least 55 degrees.
- Find the water main shut off valve in your home. You might need to shut the valve off in case of emergency.
- Shut off and disconnect your garden hoses, house bib, and all your outside faucets. If needed, drain the faucets by opening the valves. Cover the faucets by installing insulation covers on them.
Additional Heating Advice
The following tips will allow you to warm up not just your plumbing system, but your home as well.
- Switch your thermostat from setback mode to hold.
- If you want to bring in humidity and a warmer temperature, boil water and make food such as stews or foods. Avoid using the oven or a grill.
- Make sure your boilers and radiators with outside pipes are clear from snow and ice. For instance, a 90% furnace or boiler has exhaust and intake pipes outside your home that you may need to clear.
- Most home heating systems cannot handle temperatures between -20 and -30 degrees, even with functioning vents, furnaces, or boilers. The temperature drop at this rate is inevitable. Just make sure the system continues to operate and keep the thermostat at 70 degrees or more.
Dealing with Frozen Pipes
Despite your best efforts, sometimes your pipes will freeze. There are a few actions you can take to mitigate the damage if you are careful.
- Find or estimate the area where the pipe was frozen. Pipes are more likely to freeze either where the water service enters your home, or anywhere along the outside walls.
- Once you find the area, if you can, try to warm the section of the pipe where the frozen spot is located. You can do so via a portable space heater, a hair dryer, or heating pads. Do not try to directly warm the affected area, as the extreme temperature differences can weaken the pipe and cause it to break.
- Keep the faucets open. If the pipe starts to warm up, water can start flowing. By running water through the pipe, you can help speed the ice melting process.
- In the event your pipes burst, it is urgent that you locate the water main shut off valve and turn it off as soon as you can.