Why Is Pipe Freezing a Problem?

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Water expands as it freezes.  This expansions puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including plastic and metal pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.  Pipes that freeze most frequently are those exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets.  Also, pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are subject to freezing.

With temperatures in our area dropping into the single digits overnight these tips will help prevent the freezing of pipes or lines in and outside of your home which could lead to costly repairs and/or a homeowners claim.
Outside Your Home:

Shut off and drain your irrigation system. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people assume that their landscaper or lawn maintenance company has done it for them. This task only takes a few minutes and can save you hundreds of dollars in repair costs and water bills.

  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Disconnecting hoses from your faucets allows water to drain from the pipe. Otherwise, the ice formed from a single, hard overnight freeze can burst either the pipe or the faucet.
  • If you have a swimming pool, drain water from pool and supply lines following the manufacturers or installers directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.  Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Close foundation or exterior vents around the house during the cold months.  This will help keep cold air out of crawl spaces.

Inside Your Home:

  • Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. If you have water pipes in an unheated garage or crawl space under the house, wrap them before temperatures plummet. Hardware or building supply stores offer appropriate pipe wrapping materials.
  • Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks. Repair broken basement windows. Cold winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes. Avoid plugging air vents that your furnace or water heater needs for safe operation. Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Know the location of your master water shutoff valve. In many homes it’s where the water line comes into your house from the street. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house — kitchen, bath, basement or crawl space — this valve turns off all water and will save your home from damage. So, find it now and paint it a bright color or hang a tag on it. Be sure everyone in the family knows where it is and what it does.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.  Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of reach of children.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.  By temporarily suspending the use during lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if the pipes burst. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.

Using these tips will help prevent any issues with pipes freezing while the temperatures in our area are below freezing.

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