The Cold Open: 10 Ways To Protect Plumbing Pipes From Freezing

Frozen pipes are the real nightmare before Christmas. When the cold weather comes in, a frozen pipe can burst and wreak havoc on your home.

When the water in your pipes freezes, it expands. The resultant pressure can burst your pipes, meaning a flood of water. Outdoor pipes – those to your sprinklers or swimming pool – are the most prone to freezing, but if you’re on vacation and the heating’s off then your indoor pipes can freeze too – with disastrous consequences.

So when the weatherman says there’s a cold snap coming, what can you do?

How can we stop Jack Frost from wrapping his fingers around your pipes?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect your pipes. Planning ahead with heat tape and insulation is always good, but if you’re in a pinch we’ve got solutions to keep the water flowing. Here are 10 ways to protect your plumbing from freezing.

How Can I Stop My Pipes Freezing? 10 Ways To Protect Your Pipes This Winter

You can protect your plumbing by planning ahead. Whether you’re digging in for the winter or heading away on vacation, here are the best ways to protect your pipes from freezing.

1. Insulate Your Pipes

If you live in a northern or MIdwestern state then you have to plan ahead because winter is coming. Pipe insulation can protect your indoor pipes where the cold creeps in – such as in the attic or wall space around your home’s exterior.

Pipe insulation wraps your pipes in the coldest spots and keeps them from freezing when the cold comes.

2. Apply Heat Tape

If pipe insulation feels like overkill then heat tape is a great way to keep your pipes from freezing. Wrap heat tape (or heat cable) around your pipes, plug the other end into an outlet and let the tape keep your pipes piping warm all winter.

Modern varieties usually have a thermostat that can activate automatically when the temperature drops – so they’re highly efficient as well as effective.

3. Fix Any Leaks

Any hole or leak in your pipes lets the ice-cold air in and increases the chances of frozen pipes. Get your plumbing regularly checked over and fix any leaks to protect your pipes. Fixing small problems before they grow into big ones will keep your plumbing healthy.

4. Drain Outdoor Pipes

Since it’s the water in your pipes that’s really freezing, draining outdoor pipes to pools and sprinklers before the winter sets in will prevent these pipes from being damaged when the temperature drops.

An indoor valve can seal your outdoor pipes from your water supply, preventing them from being filled when not in use.

5. Disconnect Hoses

Similarly, disconnecting hoses from your outdoor faucets protects your pipes from freezing. Water always remains at the base of the hose and faucet and this is a prime spot for freeing and cracking.

6. Let It Drip

If you’re going away for the weekend and worried about pipes freezing, or if you’ve got some pipes you don’t use in winter that you want to protect, then leaving the faucet dripping just a little will keep the water flowing.

Moving water requires much colder temperatures to freeze, so a bit of movement in your pipes can protect them in the cold months.

7. Turn Up The Heat

When a cold snap hits, cranking the thermostat can protect your pipes. Leave the thermostat up overnight during the coldest nights or, if you’re taking a vacation, set the timer to come on for an hour in the morning and evening to keep things warm.

8. Open Your Cabinets

Exposed pipes under the sink or close to exterior walls might be prone to freezing – let a little heat reach these pipes by leaving cabinets ajar.

9. Keep The Garages And Outhouses Closed

Protect your outdoor pipes from the worst of the cold by keeping garage doors and outhouses closed up, especially overnight when temperatures drop.

10. Install A Freeze Alarm

A freeze alarm monitors the temperature of your home and alerts you when dropping temperatures pose a risk to your pipes – giving you time to intervene. These alarms can be picked up for under $100 – a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Pipes Have Frozen? Don’t Lose Your Cool – Here’s How To Thaw Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes don’t mean you have to lose your cool. Here’s what to do if your pipes are freezing.

Spot The Early Warning Signs

Don’t ignore the weatherman. Stay alert to cold snaps and test your faucets when the mercury drops. Faucets going from a gush to a trickle is a sure sign that the pipes have frozen.

Once you’ve found a frozen faucet, work backward from there to find the coldest point in the pipe. This will be the blockage, which we can thaw later.

Shut Off The Water

Once you’ve identified a frozen pipe, turn the water off to your home using the stopcock. Water backing up in your pipes can start gushing once you thaw the pipe, so to prevent additional leaks and spills it’s best to press pause on your household’s water supply.

When you finally thaw out the blockage, backed up water can still spill from the frozen pipe so grab a bucket and towel once you’ve shut the water off.

Warm Things Back Up

Using a space heater, heat pads, or even a hairdryer, apply heat to the point at which your pipes have frozen. Start by warming the portion of the pipe closest to the outlet or faucet – that means any steam produced will have a chance to escape.

Tentatively warm the pipe and check the faucet to see if water is able to flow again, before restoring water to your home.

Wrapping Up…

Frozen pipes are a homeowner’s nightmare, but by planning ahead you can be prepared for even the coldest snap.

Whether you’re winterproofing your pipes with insulation and heat tape or just giving the faucet a quick twist so it can drip while you’re away for Christmas, there’s plenty you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing.

And worst-case scenario? Find that frozen pipe and thaw it carefully – as long as you know the warning signs of freezing pipes, you’ll be able to thaw your pipes before the levy breaks.

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