Preventing pipes from freezing

Freezing Pipes

A frozen pipe is not just a pesky nuisance that needs to be corrected time and again; it can wreak havoc on your home and cause several harrowing and expensive problems that could have been easily avoided.

To visualize the damage, you need to realize that a measly and miniscule ½ inch crack in a water pipe can spew as much as 250 gallons of water in your home and on top of your expensive furniture, new carpet and other personal belongings. However, that is just the surface of the damage because the biggest problem is caused when warm weather is coupled with leaky pipes resulting is mould; water damage can give rise to toxic mould inside the walls or below the floor that can make the environment of your home unhealthy. Even if you home is insured against water damage, the insurance provider may not cover mould issues that stem from water leakage. With so much money, time and effort at stake, you may want to look at ways in which you can avoid frozen pipes so let's look at how you can spot and prevent this pesky problem.

The cause: Winter brings along the anticipation of the festive season, the prospect of frolicking in the snow and all those winter delicacies but it also brings along the hazard of frozen pipes. Au contraire to popular belief, you do not have to be in frosty weather to encounter a problem with frozen pipes; any temperature below 32 degrees can spell disaster for your home if the pipes in your house are not winter proof

What happens when pipes freeze?

When water freezes; there is an expansion in volume; however, the plumbing pipes in your home are not designed to withstand these forces; the result is busted pipes and flooding in your home. All pipes that are located on the outside all of the house are susceptible to freezing along with pie sections that are not insulated.

How to spot frozen pipes?

Turn the faucets on in the various areas of your home, so that you can identify the water fixtures that do not work, a tell tale indication of frozen pipes will be trickling water or water fixtures that do not work. This will help you to segregate the areas of your home and make it easy for you to pinpoint the location of frozen pipes to a particular area in your house such as the bathroom or kitchen

You need to look at exposed pipes so you will have to hunt through the attic or basement and even crawl spaces to find pipe sections that are not insulated

Also, look for external signs of freezing such as bulging or cracking. It is normal to notice frost on the frozen sections of the pipe; touch these areas, if they feel colder than normal; it may be an indication of frozen water.

If you suspect that a particular area of the pipe is frozen, confirm by spraying some water on the pipe, if it freezes, you can be sure that there is frozen water inside

If you cannot find the frozen section in the exposed area, it may be hidden in the wall, so it is essential to examine the main water feed to the water fixture that does not work. You may have to open dry walls to take care of the frozen pipes that are lodged inside.

Thawing frozen pipes: should you do it?

Instead of letting the pipes thaw naturally and turn into a messy leak, it is best to go in for gradual thawing measures

Turn up the heat in the house; open all cabinets that house pipes such as the one below the sink and the cabinets in the kitchen so that the frozen sections can be exposed to warm temperatures.

Turn on all the hot water faucets; just open them a crank and let them be for ten to fifteen minutes

You can also use a blow dryer to gradually thaw the ice. However, you need to ensure that you don't leave the dryer in one spot because if the pie heats too quickly it may crack. It would be very dangerous to use a direct intense source of heat such as a torch to warm to thaw the pipes.

Preventing frozen pipes:

Here are some insulating measures that can help to prevent pipe freezing

Use electrically powered heat tape to protect pipes against frigid temperatures. This tape will prevent the pipes from freezing in the coldest weather as long as the utilities are on. The tape has to applied spirally as per the manufacturer's recommendation in reference to the distance between individual coil. You can also use a warm lamp if all the pipes are concentrated in a small area of the house

Another option to insulate the pipes is the use of rubber or fibreglass insulation that can be used to cover the exposed pipe sections. If you have already used electrical heat tape, the fibre glass covering will need to be one size bigger than the heat tape to get a proper fit.

You will also need to secure all crawl spaces and window openings and caulk all cracks in the foundation to prevent drafts of frigid air. It is also essential to keep a water of hot water ready at night in case you need to thaw the water pipes early in the morning. Heat the water in the bottle to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and pour it slowly over the frozen pipes; let it gently thaw the ice and then turn on the water. If you find the water trickling, use the hot water for a few more minutes before turning the faucet on to its full capacity.

For outdoor water pipes use pieces of thermal blanket, fit them on each water supply line into the house such as the water feed for the washing machine, the bathtub, the dishwasher, the commode etc. Measure the length of the exposed area before cutting the thermal blanket. Soak the blanket in warm water and wrap it around the pipe. Proceed to wrap another layer of thermal blanket around the first. Ensure that you don't wrap the blanket too tight; use duct tape or an old shoe string to secure the blanket in place

"A corectly installed system should not have any pipes that freeze. If pipes do freeze then these need to be removed and system design investigated by a qualified person. The same goes for a wet heating system with air pockets. "

AJ Palmer