There are always a few days a year here in CT where the possibility of frozen pipes becomes a major concern. This year we’ve already experienced those few days…and the next couple nights are projected to be among our coldest in years. Here are a few realistic tips to help ensure you don’t experience a frozen pipe…or worse….a burst pipe:
1. Identify any and all plumbing supply lines located on the exterior walls of your home. Open up vanities, sink base cabinets and inspect washing machine lines to see if they come from the back wall or the floor. If they are located on the back wall, they are highly suspect during very cold spells. Additionally, the discharge (waste) line from the washing machine includes a “p-trap” that has standing water in it to block sewer gas. If it is located on the outside wall, that standing water can freeze and cause an overflow when the washing machine is in use (we just had a customer have this happen Tuesday).
– If plumbing is located on the exterior wall, leave the doors open to allow warm air from the room to mix with the air in the “cold zone”.
– If the area is located in a mudroom, garage or basement added insurance is a heater fan – NOT A SPACE HEATER. A heater fan can be purchased from HD or Lowes for less than $20 and is more efficient and safer than a space heater.
– Leaving a faucet “trickling” can also help to prevent a frozen pipe, as the moving water inside the pipe is less susceptible to freezing.
2. If you have a bathroom, kitchen or laundry located over a garage that is not insulated there are a couple things you can do to help keep the temperature in the garage from getting below freezing.
– After driving your car home from work, park your car in the garage. Many people, especially after a storm, leave their dirty cars in their driveway rather than pulling into the garage. Your car is a source of warmth – the engine and exhaust will give off heat for hours and will warm the surrounding space.
– Add an oil filled heater. HD and Lowes sell them for $40. They last forever and once they get up to operating temperature (which can take as long as 2 hours) they do a great job of heating a larger space, while also using less energy than a traditional space heater.
3. Don’t forget about your basement utility room if you have a finished basement. Most storage/utility areas that are left unfinished after a basement renovation should be monitored. These areas have vents/exhaust lines that exit/enter the home which can allow air to penetrate the space. Because these areas are typically blocked off from the heat of the finished part of the basement, they can be susceptible to dramatically lower temperatures during harsh cold spells.
4. If you experience a significant loss of water pressure or have no water flowing from a fixture, don’t panic or freak out! Take a few minutes to do your own troubleshooting and try to identify where the potential frozen pipe is. Most likely you will have a few hours or even an entire day to address the issue before you have the potential for catastrophic issues. If you can find the source of the frozen pipe, you can use a heater fan to heat up the pipes and resolve the issue. Remember – if your pipe(s) are frozen you can bet many other peoples’ pipes are as well – and that means every plumber, well company and filtration company will be charging top dollar for any repairs or service calls they make.
5. Apply Heating Tape for pipes that are easily accessible, the electrical heating tape may be an option to keep them from freezing. This tape can be applied directly to the pipe.
– There are two types of heating tape. One type of heating tape turns on and off by itself when it senses heat is needed. The other type of heating tape needs to be plugged in when heat is needed and unplugged when not in use.
– Much like a space heater, these products can be dangerous, so you must follow the product’s direction and safety procedures exactly.
6. Add Extra Insulation to pipes that are located in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation to keep from freezing. Pipes in basements or attics are not the only ones that may not be properly insulated from the cold. If you have had a problem with pipes freezing anywhere in your home, extra insulation could be the cure.
– Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. This can be an easy solution for pipes that are exposed but can get expensive if walls, floors or ceilings have to be opened in order to properly insulate the pipe. Additional insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm
7. DO NOT ignore a frozen pipe. Don’t say to yourself “it’s only going to be this cold for another day” or “I’ve had a frozen pipe before and nothing happened”. A frozen pipe is a serious concern, and should be addressed as soon as possible.
GOOD LUCK….Spring will be here soon!