In honor of National Preparedness Month, it’s time to anticipate the coming winter when frozen pipes become a possibility once more. Is your home prepared for freezing temperatures? Even if you live in a warmer climate, it pays to be prepared, even if you only experience one or two deep freezes per year.
Why Does it Matter if Pipes Freeze?
You might be wondering what all the hubbub is about. Frozen pipes thaw eventually, and then everything returns to normal, right?
The first problem with frozen pipes is that they block the flow of water, but more importantly, frozen pipes can burst. If you’ve ever seen a can of soda explode after being left in the freezer for too long, you have witnessed the effect that expanding water can have on your pipes.
Where are Pipes Most Likely to Freeze?
- By region: Because frozen pipes are a greater risk in cold climates, homes in the North tend to be built with water pipes inside insulated spaces, protecting them from subfreezing temperatures. Ironically, this means homes further south are more vulnerable to frozen pipes during occasional cold spells because they aren’t built with freezing temperatures in mind and homeowners tend to be less aware of the problem.
- By placement: No matter where you live, pipes are more susceptible to freezing when they’re exposed to the elements. This includes pipes installed in the attic, crawl space, along exterior walls, and anywhere that cracks or openings in the wall allow cold, outdoor air to flow over the pipes.
How Cold Does it Have to be for Pipes to Freeze?
In homes with un-insulated pipes installed in the unconditioned attic or crawl space – which is more common in the South – the temperature alert threshold is 20 degrees F. While it’s possible for pipes to freeze above this temperature if substantial outdoor air flows across them, 20 degrees is the official danger zone to watch out for.
If bitterly cold temperatures occur in your area, watch out for frozen pipes symptoms, which include low water pressure at the tap and frost on exposed pipes.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing
The best option is to install plumbing only in insulated spaces. For existing homes where pipe rerouting is impractical, take these steps to keep pipes from freezing in the crawl space or attic:
- Fit vulnerable pipes with heat tape or insulation.
- Seal cracks and holes in exterior walls and foundations with caulk.
- Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets open to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
- Let a faucet drip on particularly cold nights to prevent pressure from building up and bursting a frozen pipe.
- Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees, even while you’re out of town.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you notice frozen pipes symptoms, don’t take any chances – call Mr. Rooter Plumbing right away. While waiting for the plumber to arrive, follow these steps to start thawing the frozen pipe:
- Turn off the main water line in case the pipe has burst.
- Open the faucet to reduce pressure.
- Apply heat with a blow dryer, infrared light, portable space heater, or electric heating pad. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes.
- If the frozen pipe is behind a finished wall or underground, leave the thawing process to your plumber.
If you experience frozen pipes this winter, turn to Mr. Rooter Plumbing for help. We can safely thaw frozen pipes, even those located underground, and help you take steps to prevent pipes from freezing in the crawl space and elsewhere in your home for the remainder of winter.