When the temperature falls, the risk of your pipe freezing and bursting skyrockets. In fact, pipe bursting is one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage – easily $5,000 or more, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (PDF).
The pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages. But even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze. The good news is there are some simple things you can do to keep the water running and your house dry.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes?
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
- To keep water from freezing on an outdoor spigot during the winter, shut off the water valve to the outdoor spigot.
- Drain excess water from the pipe.
- To prevent indoor pipes from freezing, cover exposed pipes with foam insulation. It comes in long strips and can be cut down to size with a utility knife.
- Use cable ties to tie downpipe heating cable for any pipes that may need extra heat to stay fluid.
- If pipes under a sink are on an outdoor-facing wall, open up the cabinet doors to let the heat from the house flow underneath the sink.
- On extremely cold days, leave at least one sink on a slow drip to keep water moving in the pipes.
Temporary Steps to Defrost Frozen Pipes
The first sign of ice forming in pipes is reduced flow at faucets. So if the flow slows to trickle during a cold snap, or if you suspect your pipes are vulnerable, take action. Here are a few things you can do:
- Turn up the heat.
- Set up fans to blow heat into cold rooms.
- Open vanity or cabinet doors so warm air can reach the pipes under sinks.
- If you have exposed pipes inside closets or pantries, leave doors open.
- Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Even “frost-proof” faucets can burst if a hose is connected.
- Keep the garage door closed.
- If you have reduced water flow, heat the most vulnerable pipes (usually in basements and crawl spaces or near exterior walls) with a hairdryer. Leave the faucet on while you apply heat. As you melt ice, the flow will increase.
If you find yourself neck-deep in water, pun intended, here are some tips to deal with water damage.
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