During the 2013 - 2014 North American cold wave, North America experienced one of the most extreme winters to date. The cold wave was caused by southward shifts of the North Polar Vortex and led to record-low temperatures, road closures, flight cancellations, power outages, frozen pipes, and flooded houses. Some homeowners were trapped inside for days at a time, without functioning heat or plumbing.
Although this was a once-in-a-century occurrence, homeowners caught off guard wished they had prepared themselves – and their homes – for the freezing temperatures of winter.
Regardless of your location, it’s important to understand the basics of pipe freezing and thawing to ensure your home maintains its safety and efficiency during winter. If you take preventative measures to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting, you will save time and hassle – and won’t risk racking up thousands of dollars’ worth of water damage.
Steps to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Freezing water expands. As it expands, water begins to put incredible pressure on the object containing it – glass, container, or pipe. When water freezes in your household pipes, it can cause tremendous damage to your home’s interior and exterior. The majority of frozen pipes lie in cold places, including attics, garages, basements, and crawl spaces.
Here’s a step-by-step process you can employ to keep your pipes in pristine – and frozen-free – condition.
Shut off. First, locate the main water valve in your house to ensure you can stop the source of water if your pipes begin to leak.
Disconnect. After you’ve located the main water valve, disconnect the water hose from the outdoor spigot before winter arrives. Water inside of hoses freeze and, if connected to the spigot, the frozen, expanding water in your outdoor hose will cause the spigot to burst.
Tape. Wrap pipes in heater tapes (make sure the tape you purchase allows insulation over the tape).
Insulate. Insulate all pipes to keep them warm and dry.
Heat. On cold nights, shine a heated reflector lamp in an enclosed space to keep the space warm.
Drain. Allow all water to drip-drain from faucet (allow the hot side of the faucet to slow drip, and the cold side of the faucet to drip faster).
Warm. Homeowners must use a temperature-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve to make sure warm water runs throughout pipes on the coldest days of the year. Recirculation valves don’t require electricity, but they do prevent crystallization and freezing.
Monitor. Find a device to monitor the temperature of water inside of the pipes running throughout your home and yard. These devices don’t take long to install, but will help you maintain a desired temperature all season long. Ask local HVAC and plumbing experts for recommendations on which device is best for your local climate.
After you have prepared your pipes, you should take preventative measures to keep your house warm during the coldest months of the year.
Close garage doors. The less exposure your garage (and the water supply lines found in it) has to the outdoors, the better.
Open cabinet doors. If you open the cabinet doors in your bathroom and kitchen, warm air will circulate around your plumbing and keep pipes from warm.
Maintain the same temperature on the thermostat. Some homeowners set their thermostat to lower temperatures during the nighttime. Although cooler temperatures lower your heating bill, warmer temperatures will keep your pipes from crystallizing when the sun is down.
Prepare your home and pipes for freezing temperatures so frozen pipes won’t disrupt your busy winter season.
Steps to Thaw Frozen Pipes
In some places, frozen pipes are inevitable. If your house experiences a harsh winter, you can take steps to thaw your frozen pipes before they burst.
Inspect pipes. Before you start thawing your pipes, check to make sure the pipe material can withstand high heat. When thawed, some pipes slit and flood the immediate area. If you have plastic or copper pipes, call a plumber. If you have metal pipes, connect a welder onto the pipe and let it sit there for a few minutes.
Apply heat. As mentioned before, you should only apply heat to metal pipes. Use an electric space heater, heat lamp, electric heating pad, or hand-held hair dryer to warm pipes and help them thaw—never leave a heater unattended.
Open faucets. Once the water in your frozen pipe begins to melt, it needs somewhere to go. Keep all faucets in your home open so that water can run through the pipes.
If you are unsure whether or not you have the tools to thaw your pipes, call our plumbers at EZ Plumbing. Our plumbing professionals know how to safely handle your specific situation. Call us today at 780-800-1001!
It doesn’t take much to keep pipes in working order – make sure your pipes stay insulated and protected so you can enjoy the winter season and avoid the unnecessary hiccup frozen pipes present.