Category Archives: Winter and Freezing

Cold Tempratures – Are Your Pipes Going to Survive?

Whether you own a home or a condo – make sure you are prepared for winter!

Water pipes burst because the water inside them expands as it gets close to freezing, and this causes an increase in pressure inside the pipe. When the pressure gets too high for the pipe to contain, it ruptures.

We grew up with water all around us and so this expansion phenomenon seems natural, but interestingly, it is a chemical anomaly. Most liquids do not expand just before transition to solid. You should be thankful for this; it is one of the reasons that life exists.

When a liquid cools the molecules slow down (temperature really is just a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules). This slowing down allows the molecules to get closer together and increases the density of the liquid. This happens with water too, and when water is cooled down, it gets denser and denser, down to 3.98°C then, something interesting occurs; it starts to expand again.

BOTTOM LINE  – Don’t let pipes FREEZE!

How to Protect Pipes From Freezing
Before the onset of cold weather, (WHICH  IS  NOW!)  protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F. (or if you have a basement – keep it at 55!)

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Winter Plumbing and Water Tips

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When temperatures drop to freezing lows, plumbing problems are very common.  There are many things that homeowners/condo-owners can do to prevent these problems that have the potential to cause severe damage to your home or unit.

Garden hoses can cause major damage if not disconnected. During winter, if a garden hose is left connected, ice will form and pressure will build up in the water lines inside your home.  Once this occurs, a water line leak or break is common.  This can cause severe damage to the home. Disconnect garden hoses and drain outdoor pipes to prevent damage during the winter.

After disconnecting hoses, you should install an exterior, insulated faucet jacket.  This will protect your outdoor faucets, as well as the connecting lines running into the home, from freezing temperatures.

Also, be sure to utilize the shut-off valves located inside your home to drain water from pipes leading to outdoor hose bibs.  These valves can typically be found under sinks, in crawl spaces or basements, near your water heater or your meter, but every home is different and some homes may not be equipped with these valves.

Circulating warm air helps keep pipes in the walls from freezing. Keep your house temperature above 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing and open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets and near exterior walls to help circulate warm air and keep pipes warmer.  55  is also  good  for basement temps.

 Be sure that snow is not restricting your water drainage. Watch the area around your sump pump discharge line used to avoid flooding indoors, as this line drains from a basement to an outside area.  If the drainage area is blocked by snow or flowing into a puddle, freezing could occur as well as water backing-up into the house.   

 

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