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8 Ways to Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Homeowners face a new challenge as temperatures plummet: frozen pipes. Even in warmer climates, they only need to drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit to freeze in six to eight hours.

Bursting pipes and ice blockages are a worry for many people, so plumbers and water maintenance professionals should use tried-and-true methods and new tools to prevent pipes from freezing.

Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Prevention methods include small tasks for plummeting weather conditions or long-term maintenance upgrades like insulation or pipe replacement. Homeowners facing constant freezing should contact a plumber for a professional estimate of their water systems.

1. Keep a Consistent Temperature

Heating a home can be costly, so many people dial down their thermostats at night to huddle under their blankets and save some pennies. This is a smart decision during normal weather conditions, but freezing temperatures can damage pipes.

Residents should keep a sharp and steady eye on their local weather channel or app to predict a frost. On freezing nights, keep the temperature the same as daytime hours so pipes do not face extreme heat fluctuations.

2. Allow Faucets to Drip Overnight

Leaving a trickle or drop is a classic approach to prevent pipes from freezing. Running water is more resilient against ice formation than still water.

Every member of a multiperson household should be up to date on this method so they do not accidentally shut off the slow trickle.

3. Open Interior Doors and Shut Outdoor Entrances

Keep warm air circulating to maintain that consistent internal temperature. Pay particular attention to cooler areas of the house, like crawl spaces, basements and attics. Open interior doors to allow the heat to travel freely through the home.

Cabinets can also be opened to receive warmth. However, protect small children and pets against the cleaning chemicals or substances stored inside.

Interior doors remain open, but garage doors must be latched tight. Trapping heat inside this space encourages an extra layer of warmth for interior pipes. 

4. Seal All Leaks

Warding against cold air may involve sealing cracks and openings. Homeowners should inspect for holes and gaps in pipe framework, walls and windows. Even if they’re minimal, drafts contribute to a chillier indoor temperature.

Residents can fill these leaks or cracks with a caulking gun, drying filler or foam.

Plumbers should encourage homeowners to contact them if they find leaks and cracks in the pipes themselves. What may seem like a simple fix may turn into a larger issue. Leaky and frozen pipes need a professional review as their repair may need specialized tools.

5. Drain and Disconnect Backyard Water Sources

Residents must disconnect and drain outdoor garden hoses, sprinklers and pools. Any water left inside could freeze, expand and eventually cause extensive damage.

Maintain these items during winter and prepare for summer fun by shutting off valves and draining all water from these fixtures.

6. Utilize Heat Tape

A more heavy-duty method to prevent pipes from freezing involves heat tape wrapped around pipes, encasing them in warmth. Direct heat means ice is far less likely to form.

Installers should be wary of using heat tape over leaking pipes as water may cause a short.

7. Install Heating Cables and Tracing

Heat tracing features a system of cables running along the pipe system. Like heat tape, they use electricity to keep pipes at an adequate temperature while snow and ice form outside. This extensive network of cables allows residents to control even heat distribution across the home.

Homeowners thinking about heating bills can use models with power switches. This way, electricity and heating will only flow when required.

Heating cables are stiffer than heat tape, though they provide the same service. They do not shrink and are stiff enough to rest snugly around pipes all winter. Heating tape is more flexible and suited for oddly shaped pipes and hard-to-reach places.

Installers should be wary of using heat tape over leaking pipes as water may cause a short. Browse Hot Melt’s industrial tapes for suitable options.

Both work well for copper and galvanized steel pipes. However, be wary when using heating cables on PVC pipes. Though durable enough to withstand thermal temperatures, some plastic pipes may not hold up under direct physical heat.

8. Rely on Pipe Insulation

Pipe insulation involves wrapping thermal materials around pipework to retain heat and control condensation, particularly in colder areas of the home. Conventional foam insulation easily slides over pipes, while self-sealing foam features an adhesive that snugly seals around them.

Spray foam insulation coats a pipe in tight spaces, completed by skilled professionals. Fiberglass covers resist extreme heat fluctuations, protecting lines carrying hot water inside and facing freezing temperatures on their exterior.

Insulating crawl spaces and attics with lightweight insulation materials also provides another layer of protective heat for vulnerable pipes.

Next Steps: If Pipes Do Freeze

When pipes freeze, the first thing a homeowner may notice is the limited water coming out of their faucets. This halts many tasks, such as washing and cleaning, so residents may try to solve the problem on their own.

However, the wrong tactics may do more harm than good. Providing education on how to thaw pipes and knowing when to call in professional help is crucial for home health.

Ensure that customers know these signs of frozen pipes:

  • Little to no water running from faucets
  • Bulging or misshapen pipes
  • Pipes coated in condensation
  • Gurgling or unusual sounds

Frozen pipes do not always burst but are still worrisome. The “wait-and-watch” method does not address building pressure when ice and thawed water occupy the same space.

Someone who notices a lack of water or other signs of freezing should inspect for cracks or leaks on the pipes themselves. If pipes burst, turn off the water supply and seek professional plumbing assistance.

There are some do-it-yourself methods, like heating pads and hairdryers, but too much heat applied too quickly may damage the pipe. It is always advisable to seek the advice and expertise of plumbers to maintain, repair and install pipe systems.

Facing the Big Freeze

Homeowners and plumbing professionals are teaming up this winter to combat and prevent pipes from freezing. These prevention tips and reliance on expertise can help residents stay warm and safe despite the cold and snow outside.