A common concern for tenants, landlords, and property owners is keeping their pipes from freezing during those cold winter months. And this isn’t just for cold climates, as many milder climate areas will be caught off guard when an unusual cold front comes to town. These homes are actually more vulnerable to frozen pipes because the pipes may not be properly insulated against frigid temperatures.
As a general rule, temperatures outside must drop to 20 degrees or lower to cause pipes to freeze, however, any temperatures under 32 degrees should be taken into consideration. You also only need to worry about the water supply pipes, not the drain pipes. Drain pipes are 1.5” larger than water supply pipes, typically made of plastic, and don’t hold water so freezing isn’t a concern for drains.
Below we’ve given you a few tips for ensuring your water stays working this winter.
#1: Turn your faucet on to a slow drip
If temperatures are going to be dropping and you are worried about your pipes freezing, you can turn on the faucet fed by that pipe just a bit so the faucet drips slightly. Doing this relieves pressure in the system. If a pipe freezes, it is the actual pressure that is created between the blockage and the faucet that will cause the pipe to burst. Allowing the faucet to be open will prevent this pressure from building up and thus keep the pipe from bursting. If the faucet is served by both hot and cold water pipes, open both faucet taps slightly, or if you have a single-handle faucet, open it slightly with warm water dripping out.
Also, along with having your faucets dripping, it is a good idea to keep the cabinet doors that house your water pipes open so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm.
Tip #2: Seal Cracks, Holes, and Gaps
Use caulk or spray foam insulation to seal gaps around holes where pipes run through walls or floors, especially where the hole is letting in cold air. If possible, seal holes on both the interior and exterior side of wall or floor. Cold outdoor air that gets in through holes and gaps can make a cabinet compartment, which is usually pretty cold, even colder.
Tip #3: Apply Heat Tape
Heat tape works like an electric blanket for pipes, supplying heat directly to the pipe to keep it warm during cold times. One very important trick to heat tape is to ensure it is installed BEFORE the temperatures plummet.
There are two types of heat tape. The first type turns on and off by itself when it senses heat is needed. The other type must be plugged in when heat is needed and unplugged when not in use. Similar to a space heater, these products can be dangerous, so you must do your research and follow the product’s directions and safety procedures completely.
Tip #4: Insulate Your Pipes
There are often times pipes in our homes that do not have proper insulation, for example, in our basements or attics. Pipes in basements or attics are not the only ones that may not be properly insulated from the cold however, if you have had a recurrent problem with pipes freezing anywhere in your home, extra insulation could be the remedy.
Foam rubber or fiberglass insulation sleeves can be fitted to your pipe to help keep your pipe closer to the temperature of the water inside. But unlike heat tape, it does not add heat to the pipe and will not prevent freezing if the pipe is exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures.
Tip #5: Be Proactive When Going out of Town
If you know you will be out of your home for an extended period of time, make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees. You can also shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all the faucets and flushing all the toilets.