The blistering winter cold can wreak havoc in many ways during the winter season. Frozen pipes in your home and the potential they may burst is one of the more damaging and costly. There are some measures and pre-cautions you can take to eliminate or greatly reduce the potential for pipes to freeze and burst. The following are measures and tricks you can implement and put into place to avoid this potentially disastrous and costly repair:
- Insulate all water pipes from cold moving air and keep them dry. Locate the main water shut off in case you need it. Leaks often happen if the pipe is thawed out.
- Use either heater tapes wrapped around the pipes or a heated reflector lamp in a dry enclosed space. Check the light to see that it is working on cold nights. The heater tapes work by a built in thermostat. The tape must be wrapped between the pipe and the insulation to work.
- Note that if electricity is unavailable or goes off let the water run only at a slow constant drip; this is cheaper than repairing it. First start a slow drip on the hot side faucet, then a faster drip on the cold side faucet. There is no need to run a lot of water. Bathrooms can be cold, as long as they aren't freezing.
- Remember to insulate and heat the drain lines in crawl spaces and cold basements. Again, a heat lamp focused on the drain p-trap will keep it from freezing if it is also protected from moving cold air by making a boxed enclosure.
- Thaw out a frozen pipe, first check the pipe in the area of the freeze. Some plastic or copper pipes will split and will flood an area when thawed out. If the pipe looks busted or has a slit in it, call a plumber. If the pipe is all metal, it can be thawed out by connecting a rented welder onto the pipe on each side of the frozen part. After a while it will be running again. It is just like connecting starter cables to the car battery, but with much longer cables.
- It is far better to heat the area around the frozen part with an electric space heater, a hand held hair dryer, or a heat lamp in a reflector to prevent a fire. If this is a problem, call the plumber. Some of them don't mind you watching them as long as you are quiet and not in the way.
- Always unhook your water hose from your outdoor spigot in the winter, or before the weather in your area starts to get below freezing. The water inside the hose can freeze, and the freezing continues back into the spigot until it reaches your piping. If you have PVC plastic piping leading to this spigot, it will burst.
- Use a product like the RedyTemp hot water optimizer to intermittently circulate tepid-warm water throughout your hot and cold waterlines anytime the sensor detects a temperature below a user chosen setpoint. Unlike heat tape which only heats the pipes, this process circulates water to prevent crystallization - freezing no matter where the pipes are hidden.
- Use a product called ICE LOC which prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water. It's an elastomer that fits inside pipes that are in trouble areas.