We’ve reached the time of year wherein many homeowners are longing for warmer weather. But in several states, you won’t be able to store away your warmest parka quite yet. Cold snaps and late winter storms are still very much a reality for countless people across the country. And as if you didn’t have enough to worry about, it’s possible that you might have to deal with the home-related emergency situation that every family dreads: frozen pipes. Over 98% of homes with basements experience some type of water damage throughout the years, but if you don’t want to deal with the mess (and the costs) associated with frozen pipes, you might want to heed this advice.
Invest in Insulation
One of the most important steps to take is to insulate your pipes. There are certain pipes that are more prone to freezing, like the ones in basements, attics, garages, and exterior walls. When building a home, you can easily prepare for these kinds of events by installing insulation around your pipes. But it’s a bit tougher after the fact, particularly in areas that aren’t the most accessible. You can probably DIY a fair amount of pipe insulation with electrical heat tape, basic insulation, and heating cables.
Just keep in mind that, like any other project, you’ll want to take care of this well before you actually experience this kind of emergency. The construction industry eliminated more than 40% of its workforce between 2006 and 2011, and there are general labor shortages all over. Contractors and repair technicians are especially hard to come by during the winter, so prepare ahead of time and plan to insulate your pipes during the off-season so you won’t ever be caught off-guard.
Know Which Doors to Open and Close
Experts say that you may be able to prevent frozen pipes by opening or closing certain doors to ensure warm air can circulate. You should keep garage doors closed, particularly if there are pipes running through this area. However, kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors should be left open so that the warmth can get to the pipes and keep the freeze from taking hold. Just make sure to remove any harmful cleaning agents or other chemicals first and put them in a safe spot. If you have an unheated crawl space or there’s another area of your home that’s particularly prone to frozen pipes, hook up a space heater or even a fan to keep the air flowing.
Forget About Conservation For Now
You’re probably conscious about how much you spend on your water bill every month, but now isn’t really the time to be stingy. Experts advise that you keep faucets dripping, particularly in rooms that have caused issues in the past. That way, you might not wake up with the unwelcome surprise of frozen pipelines. What you’ll end up spending on your water bill will be a lot less than the costs associated with pipe repair and damage clean-up.
You’ll also want to make sure that your home is adequately heated. In the summertime, you can save 7-10% on cooling costs for every degree over 78 to which your thermostat is set. Of course, keeping your thermostat set on the lower side in winter can save you money during this half of the year. But keeping temperatures too low can make your pipes more vulnerable to freezing. The temperatures in your home should never drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit — and you should always be certain to keep your heat on even if you’re going away. If you don’t, you might return from vacation and find your pipes have frozen and burst. So while saving energy and money is important, don’t let your focus on conservation keep you from making the best decision for your family and for your property.
Try Some Thawing Tricks
Despite all your best efforts, your pipes may still freeze. If you live in an older home and aren’t able to easily access your pipes yourself, you might want to keep a plumber on speed-dial. You can certainly try to thaw out some frozen pipes first, though you should proceed with caution. A high-powered hair dryer may do the trick, especially if you place a baking sheet behind the frozen pipe to help radiate heat throughout. Heating pads or towels soaked in hot water may also be wrapped around frozen pipes. You should never use an open flame (like a blow torch) to do so and if you do try to thaw your pipes, be aware that there could be a break somewhere down the line; if there is, you may have to deal with leaks and subsequent damage. If these methods don’t work, you should definitely call a plumber sooner rather than later.
Winter comes with a lot of hassles, especially if you own a home. With any luck, these tips should allow you to prevent frozen pipes in your home or take proper action if the worst does occur during the rest of the season.