Freezing Pipes

Preventing Frozen Water Pipes

 During the cold winter months, it feels so nice to sit in front of the fire or watching television, warm as toast.  But what if you are suddenly interrupted by a bursting water pipe and had to run to the kitchen or the bathroom to fix it?  Undoubtedly, you will be all wet, cold and obviously annoyed at the situation.

If you live in a country that gets extremely cold weather, then it is recommended that you take measures to avoid freezing pipes every year before winter sets in.  Prevention is better than cure, like in a lot of other situations.  In this case, if we prevent pipes from freezing, then we will also be able to prevent them from bursting open.  When the water inside the pipes freeze over and turn to ice, it expands and will cause the pipe to burst open.  A burst pipe is not only inconvenient, but it can also cause water damages to your home that may be costly.

But what kind of seasonal home maintenance should an ordinary homeowner do to prevent their pipes from freezing?  Read on to find out the basic steps you should take.

Insulate Your Home Well

Before you take measures to prevent pipes from freezing, it is advisable to check if your house is well insulated.  Keeping the heat inside your home efficiently will help you save on your gas and heating bill, but a well-insulated home also helps prevent pipes from freezing over and bursting open.  Check your doors and windows for any areas where draughts could possibly get in.  Try not to leave the windows open for too long and use heavy curtains on your windows.

Identify Which Pipes are Prone to Freezing

Not all of your house's pipes run the risk of freezing over.  Some sections are more likely to freeze more than others.  Those pipes that run along your house's exterior walls are prone to freezing.  The risk of exterior wall pipes freezing over is especially high in older homes, as the walls may not be insulated.

Pipes that run through garages, basements and attic crawlspaces are also prone to freezing.  The same is also true for the area where the main water supply pipe enters the home.  The pipes outside the home are exposed to the elements, so when they are the pipe sections that are more likely to freeze over when weather becomes chilly.

Did you know that hot water pipes may also freeze?  If the cold travels up the pipe, the water in it may freeze and cause an ice blockage.

Insulate the Pipes that are Likely to Freeze

One of the ways we could prevent pipes from freezing is to insulate them.  You may install special pipe insulation, which can be bought at your local hardware or home supply stores.  Pipe insulation are foam tubes that help keep the pipes warm.  You can fit them around pipes to prevent them from freezing over. 

Another thing you can do to insulate the heat in pipes is to wrap them with an electric heating tape. 

For those pipes that run along the exterior part of your house, it is advisable to invest in installing additional fibreglass insulation between the exterior wall and the pipes.  Unfortunately, if you find fibreglass insulation a little expensive and difficult to install, you may opt to use rubber insulation as a substitute.  The only drawback when using rubber insulation is that it does not provide vapour barriers, so it cannot be used together with heat tapes.

It will be good to apply extra insulation on the pipes in which the outside water supply enters.  The cold from outside will enter the house through these pipes, so they tend to freeze over more quickly compared to the other pipes around your home. 

To apply additional heat to sections of pipes that are likely to freeze over, you may also direct the rays of a heat lamp towards that section.

Running Water Does Not Freeze

Technically, the pipes themselves do not freeze.  It is the water inside the pipes that is prone to freezing over.  But if the water inside the pipes are flowing continuously, the cold will not be given the chance to settle and turn the water into ice.  As previously mentioned, burst pipes are caused by the icing over of the water in the pipes. 

To keep the water flowing inside the pipes, the easiest thing to do is to keep the faucets running.  It is best if several faucets located at different parts of the house are left on, so that the water evenly flows through various pipe sections. 

The trouble with leaving the faucets open regularly is that it is wasting water resources and may cause your water bill to shoot up.  So, it is advisable to only do this on extremely cold days.

Avoid Burst Pipes When Your House is Empty

Many homes avoid burst pipes because of the regular use of heating and hot water.  But what if you are going away for winter or if your house is only a seasonal home and usually empty during winter?  If a house is not heated regularly, then pipes are more than likely to burst open.

In order to avoid burst pipes in the house while you are away, you must first turn off the main valve of the house's water supply.  This is usually located in the area where the water supply enters the house.  After turning the main water supply off, you must then drain away all the water that is already in the pipelines.  To do this, leave all the faucets open until the last drop of water.  You must also not forget to drain the water that feed the exterior parts of the house.