Tis’ the Season for Frozen Pipes

Every winter thousands of pipes, fixtures, and appliances freeze and burst because of inadequate heat or insulation. When a frozen pipe bursts, the result is extensive water damage. When water freezes at a temperature of 32ºF or below, it expands up to 10 percent in volume. Inside a pipe, that added internal pressure can cause bursting. Expanding ice can cause a pipe or fitting to crack, but the ice will block the flow of water while it is solid. In this case, the actual water damage will not be apparent until the ice melts and water flows out of the burst section. The best way to protect plumbing from freezing is to provide sufficient insulation and adequate heat during the colder winter months.

Frozen Pipe Prevention Tips:

  • Insulate all accessible pipes using pipe insulation.
  • Prior to the winter months, ensure that all cracks, holes, and other openings on the exterior walls are sealed tightly with caulk or insulation to prevent cold air from penetrating the wall cavity.
  • Disconnect all hoses from hose bibs and install insulating covers over the hose bibs.
  • Keep all exterior entry, exit and garage doors to unheated spaces closed as much as possible during the winter months.
  • If the temperature drops lower than usual and any pipes are located adjacent to exterior walls or within base cabinets or in closets, leave the cabinet/closet doors open or use a fan to increase warm air circulation around the pipes.
  • In areas of severe cold weather, pay close attention to local weather reports for notice of extreme cold weather.
  • When extreme cold weather is predicted, let all faucets drip to prevent freezing of the water inside the pipe, and if freezing does occur, to relieve pressure buildup in the pipes between the ice blockage and the faucet. The pressure buildup is the actual cause of bursting pipes.
  • Install a water leak detection system, available at your plumbing supply store, which will alert someone in your household if a water leak is detected.
  • Shut off the water supply during periods when the home may be unoccupied, particularly when colder weather is expected.
  • Be sure to drain your water supply system before leaving the home unoccupied.

Additional information regarding winter weather and dealing with frozen plumbing can be found on the website for The Institute for Business & Home Safety (www.ibhs. org).