Prevent Freezing Pipes

If you put a can of soda into the freezer to chill quickly and forget about it, it explodes. That’s because when water freezes, it expands. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe breaks. But because the water is frozen, you probably won’t know about the crack until it thaws and water escapes causing serious damage.

Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes. The size of pipes and the type of pipe (copper or PVC) have some effect on how fast they freeze, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.

Hints, Tips & Reminders to Prevent Freezing Pipes

  • Good quality heat tape and properly insulating the pipe maybe used to protect pipes from freezing. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product is UL rated. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten. Electrical switches can be installed to turn the switch on and off as well.
  • Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s not that a small flow of water prevents freezing; this helps, but water can freeze even with a slow flow. A dripping faucet wastes some water, so only pipes vulnerable to freezing (ones that run through an unheated or unprotected space) should be left with the water flowing. The drip can be very slight. A flow of one gallon per hour is enough to prevent freezing.
  • Drafts will freeze pipes. Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes.
  • Remove your garden hoses and water connections for evaporative coolers from your outside hose faucets.
  • Insulate the pipes that are in walls from the cold not the heat or in areas where there is no heat, such as the garage or crawl space. Put the insulation behind the pipes towards the cold. Don’t block the heat with the insulation by putting the insulation over the pipes.
  • Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes.
  • We don’t recommend sealing or blocking crawlspace vents or combustion air pipes. This could affect to operation of your gas appliances. Instead plumbing should be routed around and away from the vents and combustion air pipes.
  • Repairing drywall in garages and repairing insulation under mobile homes.
  • Thoroughly drain down and blow out your sprinkler system in the fall.
  • We recommend installing water lines for evaporative coolers on the outside of the house and connecting to an outside hose faucet. That way if you forget to winterize the cooler or an unexpected early fall freeze takes place the water line may still freeze but it won’t be in the attic to cause damage to the inside of your home.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances. Call Brothers! For more information on Frozen Water Pipes Click Here

What should I do if my pipes freeze AND BREAK?

If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed; Call Brothers and we will send a qualified technician to fix the pipe.

Where are my shutoff valves?

There are actually two major shutoff valves in line with your service. The first valve, called a curb stop, is generally located near the property line and is normally housed by a cylinder with a cap on it called the curb box. The other major valve is located in the home next to the water meter. Other valves may be near plumbing appliances such as sinks and toilets. Brothers can label these shut off valves for you at no charge on any of our visits to your home so you can easily locate them in an emergency.

Also, keeping your main valve in good working condition will assure you that you will be able to turn your water off in the event of an emergency, in case one of your water pipes breaks, for example. Older style gate valves should be turned periodically due to possible corrosion build-up. Newer Teflon coated ball valves should stay in working order without any regular turning.