Frozen Pipes Can Cost You Plenty
There are, of course, a number of things you should do to safeguard your home during winter, but keeping pipes from freezing is one of the most important.That’s because frozen pipes burst. Freezing is, in fact, the main reason they burst, and any time the temperature of one drops bellow 32 degrees, a pipe is vulnerable because frozen water creates pressure inside it.
As you’d expect, frozen pipes become a problem for a longer or shorter period of time depending on the climate in the area. In cold cities like Chicago and Boston, pipes freezing can become a problem even before December rolls around.
This, however, doesn’t mean that homeowners in milder climates have little to worry about. Sometimes they have more because their pipes may be in areas unprotected by building insulation, and the homeowners may be less vigilant where the issue of pipes freezing is concerned. If that’s the case, when cold weather does come, they may well find themselves in trouble.
Every pipe that does burst can cost you from $1000 to $4000 in water damage cleanup and repairs. Granted, if you have a standard homeowner’s policy, this is probably covered, but filing the claim and dealing with cleanup is still a headache you don’t need.
Happily, though, there are measures you can take to prevent pipes freezing.
Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Check the Condition of Your Pipes
First, take a look at your pipes. They deteriorate with age, and accordingly, old ones are more likely to burst. The rate of deterioration is, of course, related to what material they’re made on. PEX pipes last about 40 years while PVC and copper ones last 50 to 70 years.
It’s also worth knowing that some pipe materials are simply more prone to bursting than others. Copper pipes aren’t flexible, which means they have little way of coping with water freezing and expanding inside them. PEX pipes are flexible, and that provides a measure of protection in the same circumstances. (They can still burst, though.)
If you have any concerns about the condition of your pipes, call a plumber to inspect them and replace them if necessary. It’s much more economical and less of a headache to take care of this before frozen pipes burst.
Change Your Behavior to Minimize the Risk of Frozen Pipes
Homeowners often do a number of things that increase the chances of pipes freezing. Try not to be one of those homeowners.
For example, some people turn off the heat when they go on vacation. Naturally, the house then gets cold, and frozen pipes are more likely. It’s a good idea not to set the thermostat below 60 degrees when you’re heading off on a trip.
You should also keep the garage door shut, especially if there are water lines in the garage but keep interior doors open to allow heat to circulate efficiently inside the house. You can also set ceiling fans to draw warmer air down from the ceiling to heat a room.
Insulation is Your Friend
Basements, crawlspaces, and attics often aren’t temperature controlled and accordingly are prone to getting cold. You can combat this by adding insulation. As you’d expect, the thicker it is, the more protection it will provide.
There are a variety of insulation materials. Fiberglas can be highly effective, but it’s expensive and requires professional installation because of the bending and cutting required. Everbilt’s foam pipe insulation provides a cheaper DIY option for PVC and copper pipes, and you can find others at any hardware store.
Water Alarms Prevent Water Damage
Water alarms are water sensors that detect leaks early, before your home sustains water damage that can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs. They also detect dampness that can promote the growth of mold. It’s a good idea to put them wherever there’s significant risk of water damage. Ideally, that means close to air conditioner drain tubes, near washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and water heaters, behind toilets, and under sinks.
As with insulation, a number of options are available, including some you control from your smartphone that enable you to watch for leaks even when you’re away from home.
Be Sure to Thaw Frozen Pipes the Right Way
There’s a good chance you have a frozen pipe if you turn the faucet on and only get a trickle of water. If there’s no water leaking, you may be able to thaw out the pipe by running warm water through it. Wrapping frozen pipes in towels soaked in hot water is another effective technique. Just don’t resort to hair dryers, electric heaters, or any devices that produce an open flame. That much heat can damage pipes or even start a fire.
Know When to Call a Professional
Finally, DIY measures will often do the trick. But you need a licensed plumber if you can’t thaw a frozen pipe, the frozen pipe is cracked or leaking, or it’s behind a ceiling or wall. You’ll likely pay $80 to $130 an hour, which isn’t nothing, but it’s less than you’ll ultimately pay if you don’t attend to the problem.