Avoiding Frozen Pipes in Frigid Temperatures

Avoiding Frozen Pipes in Frigid Temperatures

Indiana is, once again, experiencing a longstanding arctic blast that has crushed low temperature records. Just existing in subzero temperatures can be miserable. Add the mess of frozen and/or burst pipes; it can be enough to make you want to pack up and fly south!

Everything we’ve learned in school says water starts freezing at 32°, but researchers say that may not be the case with pipes. Tests of residential water systems subjected to winter temperatures demonstrated that the onset of freezing occurred when the outside temperature fell to 20 degrees or below.

However, other factors can cause the pipes to freeze at temperatures above 20°. These include pipes exposed to windy, cold air which flows in due to a crack in an outside wall or lack of insulation. Also, pipes under mobile homes or RVs which have pipes exposed to cold winds can freeze faster due to the exposure.

sinkLetting the faucet run a just a trickle during very cold nights can keep water circulating and help avoid frozen pipes. One important thing…make sure the drain is open! Water is less likely to freeze if it is circulating. This is particularly important for fixtures that are serviced by pipes in an outside wall of the house. If a sink is under a kitchen window, for instance, it’s likely the pipes come up through a wall that faces outside.

Pipes filled with freezing water can burst just like a full glass bottle and can cause water damage in a home. If water escapes, the damage can be massive, particularly if no one is home at the time to get the water shut off. But there are steps that can be taken to avoid this problem. While some are obvious, some others are not so much.

Check for drafts, and get them taken care of.

Many frozen and burst pipes occur near the water meters where the pipes come into the house. Make sure the spaces around the pipes and utilities coming in from outside are sealed.

Frequently, the placement of the water meter itself can be a problem. If it is in a basement and closed inside a compartment, residents should keep the door open to get warm air to the pipes connected to the meter.

Pipes in crawl spaces are also particularly susceptible to freezing. Exposed pipes should be insulated. Most home-improvement stores have the proper materials and even kits to protect the pipes.

Part of the problem is that people whose homes have not had frozen pipes in the past often feel that any problems would have already become apparent. But something as simple as shrubbery that might have shielded a draft-prone crack, might have been removed during the summer, changing the conditions. And while most winters in this area are cold, the air doesn’t have to be sub-zero to cause problems. A sustained period of temperatures in the upper 20s can cause the same issues.

Keep your thermostat at a reasonable setting. Don’t set it too low.

It’s also important to know how to turn off the water in your home in case of a broken pipe. Most newer homes and older homes that have updated plumbing have a main valve inside that shuts off the water coming into the house. People should be aware of its location and even mark it. The water can usually be shut off from outside, but that often requires a water utility crew, which can cost time. Add even more time if the outside valve is buried under snow and ice.

DISCLAIMER: Neither Indiana USDA Mortgages (IndianaUSDAmortgages.com) nor Luminate Home Loans is affiliated with any government agencies, including the USDA.

Submit a Comment