Winter is here again. We’ve been having extreme winter lows here in Missouri for the past week or so. Tomorrow is supposed to be better, and I'm ready. The roads have been treacherous a few times, and it has been COLD! One morning last week, my car thermometer said -12 degrees when I drove to work.
Hopefully, you are safe and warm and have taken some weatherizing steps to protect your home.
You may wonder why I post this advice every year. Every winter when it gets cold, we receive calls at my office about frozen or burst water lines. There is nothing we can do to help with that. It’s like closing the barn door after the horse has already gotten out. The best solution is to employ preventative measures.
I can’t tell you how many people think because we wrap water lines during our service that means we repair burst pipes. We do not. We are also not an emergency service. We have a waiting list, so calling us when it is 21 degrees outside will not yield immediate or even quick results. The process takes several months. I won’t go into the minutia, but most people have a lengthy wait.
Frozen water lines are a huge hassle. I know I posted this wisdom a few times before, but these are great tips that could save you a bunch of money and a ton of frustration. Water lines freeze when it gets cold like this if you let them.
There are some things you can do to keep them from freezing and possibly bursting. The simplest and most effective way to keep water lines from freezing is to drip your water if the temperature is too low. Just a small drip will usually do. You want to keep the water moving through the pipes, so it won’t have a chance to freeze. You especially want to be sure to drip the faucets that are fed from water lines embedded in exterior walls.
I drip mine in each sink and shower/bathtub once the temperature falls below 30 degrees. Conventional wisdom says 23 degrees is when pipes freeze, but if water freezes at 32 degrees, I would rather be safe than sorry. I have found a foundation vent left open at my house more than once.
Opening your cabinets under your sinks also helps. It allows the heat from your home to circulate around your plumbing. Just be sure to remove any dangerous chemicals if you have small children or pets.
Your crawlspace and walls will offer a little protection, but probably not much. It depends on how insulated your crawlspace and walls are. When water freezes, it expands. Water lines can only hold so much and often burst from the pressure when they freeze.
Wrapping your pipes is a great preventive measure you can take to avoid disaster. Pipe wrap, also called tubular pipe insulation, is readily available at your local hardware or home goods store. It’s inexpensive and easy to install. Well, you do have to get under the house to the pipes to install it, and that isn’t always easy. The pipe wrap we use at work is a 6-foot foam tube with a slit running full length of it.
All you do is slip the foam around your pipes. It can be cut to size with a box knife or scissors. You can buy pipe wrap in the shape of tees and elbows for full coverage. There’s also tape you can buy to wrap around your water lines, but it’s more labor intensive to install.
An important thing that many people overlook in winter is their foundation vents. While it’s good to have them open during the summer to reduce moisture, they need to be closed in the wintertime. You don’t want that frigid air blowing through your crawlspace making your floors cold and freezing your pipes.
I hope you never suffer through frozen water lines because I can tell you from a few past experiences that it is a giant hassle and can be expensive. So, drip that water!
Stay warm, safe, and healthy, my friends!
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