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Tips to prevent freezing pipes this winter

With winter right around the corner, and freezing temps likely to arrive beforehand, here are some tips to help avoid costly mistakes this winter.

Icing within pipes poses a hidden threat that might only become apparent as temperatures rise. Once the thaw begins, the potential water damage can be extensive and expensive. Luckily, safeguarding your home by maintaining a consistent temperature, adequate insulation, and preventing exposure can help prevent pipes from freezing during the winter.

What to Do if You Encounter a Frozen Pipe:

If you suspect your pipes have been subjected to freezing temperatures or notice restricted water flow, take the following steps to minimize the risk of water damage:

  1. Locate and promptly close the main water shutoff valve, especially before temperatures rise above freezing.
  2. Open all faucets, including those outside, to facilitate draining the remaining water from the pipes.
  3. Prepare buckets, towels, and fans to manage, clean up, and dry any water leaks.
  4. Gradually turn the water back on and inspect for leaks. If leaks are present, be ready to turn off the water immediately.
  5. Inspect pipes for damage, particularly in areas like attics and crawl spaces, where it is safe to do so.
  6. Avoid using torches or heat guns for thawing, as they pose fire hazards.
  7. Monitor for signs of water leaks as temperatures increase above freezing.
  8. If there is pipe damage, seek the assistance of a licensed plumber for repairs.

Why Frozen Pipes Are a Concern:

When water freezes, it expands, placing pressure on both plastic and metal pipes. This expansion can lead to bursting, causing significant water damage to your home.

  • Water expansion during freezing puts undue pressure on pipes.
  • Regardless of material strength, the force from freezing can cause pipes to burst.
  • Burst pipes may go unnoticed until the ice thaws, resulting in leaks and flooding.

Pipes Most at Risk:

Pipes exposed to the elements, such as those outdoors and along exterior walls, require additional protection in winter. These include:

  • Outdoor hose hookups and faucets.
  • Swimming pool supply lines.
  • Lawn sprinkler lines.
  • Water pipes in unheated interior locations, such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Pipes running against exterior walls with inadequate insulation.

Preventing Frozen Pipes:

Before winter:

  1. Inspect your home for water pipes in unheated or poorly insulated areas.
  2. Ensure proper insulation for both hot and cold water pipes using pipe sleeves, UL-listed heat tape, or heat cable. During winter:
  3. Close inside valves supplying water to outdoor faucets.
  4. Open outdoor faucets to drain residual water and keep them open during cold weather while the water supply is turned off.
  5. Keep garage doors closed to protect water pipes located inside.
  6. Open cabinet doors where plumbing is located to allow warmer air circulation around pipes.
  7. For pipes at risk of freezing, let water drip from faucets.
  8. Maintain a home temperature of at least 55 degrees to prevent freezing.

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