How to Prevent Frozen Pipes: Steps to Take When the Mercury Drops
For anyone living in an area where temperatures regularly dip below freezing, a few precautionary steps to help protect your plumbing can be a cost-effective way to help avoid cleaning up after a burst pipe. Consider that the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) says one frozen pipe that bursts may result in more than $5,000 worth of water-related damage.
Read on to find out what the IBHS says you can do to help stay ahead of the freeze.
Protect Pipes Before a Freeze
- Be sure to insulate all accessible pipes well before a cold snap. If you’re not sure what type of pipe insulation to use, ask your local hardware store, says the IBHS. The staff there should be able to help recommend insulation that is appropriate for your home and the winter temperatures in your area.
- Apply pipe insulation to water pipes in unheated areas of your home, such as the garage, or in areas where pipes are near exterior walls, such as under kitchen or bathroom sinks.
- Using a sealant or caulk approved for exterior use, shore up cracks and holes on your home’s outside walls. (If you haven’t done this already, you may have to save it for next spring. Caulk typically needs to be applied in temperatures of at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit, says the Department of Energy.)
Take Action When Temperatures Drop
- Regularly listen to your daily weather report, and be prepared for freezing temperatures and other winter advisories, notes the IBHS.
- During severe cold snaps, keep exterior doors to unheated spaces, such as garages, closed, says the American Red Cross.
- If kitchen or bathroom pipes are located near exterior walls, leave the cabinet doors open and use a fan to circulate the warmer air around the pipes, states the Red Cross.
- Let taps slowly drip during extreme cold snaps to help prevent water from freezing and to relieve pressure in the event that some water does freeze, says the IBHS.
- Consider installing a water leak alarm in areas where you might expect a problem, such as the basement. The alarm sounds when water is detected and can quickly alert you to a problem, states the IBHS.
How to Check for Frozen Pipes (and Thaw Them)
To check on your pipes, the IBHS suggests turning on each faucet (both hot and cold). If there’s only a trickle of water or, even worse, there’s no water coming out at all, then you should suspect a frozen pipe. The source of the freeze is most likely near an exterior wall or where the main water supply enters your home, says the IBHS, so leave the faucet on and use a blow dryer (never an open flame torch or other device) to help heat the pipe until there’s a steady flow of water.
Of course, if you can’t locate the frozen pipe or just aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, call a plumber.
Remember, a plumber may help with relocating certain pipes to help prevent a similar freeze in the future.
Originally published on February 17, 2014.