Your water pipes are most at risk of freezing in the winter, as the temperature outside goes down. As a general rule of thumb, the outside temperature needs to be below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for pipes to freeze, but this depends on location and your home’s insulation.
When pipes are exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time (about 6 hours or more), water can freeze. When water freezes, it expands in volume. This causes an increase in pressure that can ultimately lead to a pipe bursting.
It’s important to know how to keep your pipes from freezing, bursting, and causing a lot of damage to your home during the winter season. Here are five tips for preventing this costly issue.
Never turn your heat completely off in the winter.
Never turn your heating off completely during the winter, especially when the temperature outside drops below freezing. If you turn your heat off, then the temperature in your house will drop, making the water in your pipes more susceptible to freezing.
If you’re going to be away on vacation and want to turn the heat down to save energy, make sure the temperature stays at a minimum of 55 degrees F to prevent pipes from freezing. Your heating bill will cost less than fixing any damage from frozen pipes.
If you don’t have a smart or programmable thermostat to control the temperature while you are away, ask a friend or neighbor to check your house to make sure it’s warm enough.
Insulate pipes in attics and basements.
It’s possible for pipes in your home to freeze just about anywhere, but those most at risk are in unheated interior areas such as attics, basements or crawl spaces, and garages. Foam pipe insulation is often enough to prevent freezing in those areas of your home.
Cold water pipes that are not insulated provide an ideal surface for condensation. The water that forms on exposed pipes is more likely to freeze in those cooler, unheated areas. Adding insulation not only prevents condensation, but can also improve your home’s overall energy efficiency.
Leave cabinet doors open.
Pipes that run through cabinets are at risk for freezing, especially if they run next to an exterior wall. Keeping the doors open will allow the heat to circulate and keep the pipes warm. Of course, if you have pets or small children, make sure cleaning supplies or medicine are safely stored somewhere else.
Let faucets drip during freezing temperatures.
Consider turning at least one of your faucets on to a slow drip if you have extremely cold temperatures outside. Running water, even if it’s just dripping, doesn’t freeze as easily.
You do not need to turn on all the faucets in your home to keep pipes from freezing. In fact, it’s most important to just turn on the faucet that is farthest away from where the water comes into your house. This will help the water circulate through your home’s entire water supply pipe system, which will prevent other pipes and faucets from freezing as well.
Drain your water system if you’re going away.
An extra precaution you can take if you’re going to be away from home during winter is to drain your water system. First, turn off your main water valve. Then, turn on your faucets until the water stops running. This way you’ll know the pipes are completely drained, and there will be no water that could potentially freeze when you’re not home.
Knowing how to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting during the cold winter months can save you money from unwanted repairs. If preventive measures aren’t taken early in the season and amid the winter’s most frigid temperatures, then you may find yourself with more problems than one.
RSC Heating & Air Conditioning is always here to help.