Are you planning on taking a trip with your family this winter? If so, remember to take proper precautions before leaving your home—specifically when it comes to your plumbing system! Having your pipes freeze while you’re away is one of the worst things that can happen to your home during the winter!
Before we start, let’s talk a little bit about why frozen pipes are a problem. Water expands when it freezes, and when it does it can exert over 2,000 PSI of pressure. Since pipes are usually made of PVC, copper, or iron, all that pressure can cause them to crack or burst. A burst pipe will spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, and can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home.
Obviously, cold temperatures cause pipes to freeze. Pipes located in an outside wall or in an unheated crawlspace are at the highest risk of damage. There are three major reasons that pipes freeze:
The best way to prevent your pipes from freezing is keep them from being exposed to cold air. Since heat moves from warm things to cold things, the heat from warm water in your pipes will bleed out into the cold air until the water eventually freezes. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to keep your pipes from freezing while you’re out on vacation.
You can add insulation both in the walls and around the pipes to prevent them from freezing. Insulation is important for keeping your pipes warm even if you live in an area where pipes don’t freeze all that often. Remember that exposed pipes are the most at risk for freezing! You can use foam pipe insulators, heat tape, or other controlled heat cables to insulate the pipes themselves. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when doing this and be sure the products are approved for where you want to use them (indoors or outdoors).
Seal up any air leaks near where pipes are located. Particular areas to look at include electrical outlets, dryer vents and pipes. You can seal these spaces up with caulk or insulation. When it gets really cold, even a tiny crack can let in enough cold air to cause pipes to freeze up. You’ll save money on your heating bills with this one too!
Finally, make sure you disconnect any garden hoses outside and, if you can, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain any water from pipes leading to outdoor faucets. This will reduce the chance of your hose freezing. Taking steps to prevent your pipes from freezing will save you some major hassles down the road.