Before Cold Weather
Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes. Keep baseboard outlets clear of rugs and furniture during the winter to maximize circulation of heat. Bleed trapped air from hot water radiators once or twice a season.
Frozen water pipes aren’t life threatening, however frozen or broken water pipes do cause damage to homes each winter. If pipes in the walls aren’t properly insulated; they can freeze and rupture. (An eighth-of-an-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day, soaking floors, rugs, and furniture.) To prevent the mess and aggravation frozen pipes cause, protect your home before it’s too late.
Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing — typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic. Insulation made especially for this purpose is available from your local Home Improvement Center. In extreme conditions you may want to wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved). Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
An inspection should be made, by you, to ensure that there are no water pipes passing near a broken window, an open basement door, a cracked basement foundation, an uninsulated floor joist, etc. These situations allow an outside draft to blow on the water pipe causing it to freeze-up more quickly. Leave cupboard doors open under a sink or other closed area containing plumbing on an outside wall. This will allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Check your heating system. Be sure to maintain your furnace, boiler and water heater by having it serviced every year
- Check smoke and fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and change your heating and air conditioning filters.
- Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located.
- If your pipes freeze, the quicker you shut off the water, the better chance you have of preventing pipe bursts.
- Check weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors and replace or repair as needed.
- Clean and vacuum dust from vents, baseboard heaters and cold-air returns.
But, When it’s Below Freezing …
- Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
- The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees because inside the walls where the pipes are located it’s much colder.
If Pipes Do Freeze
During the winter months, unprotected water pipes are vulnerable to freezing. This problem may be prevented by making sure that heat (above 32 degrees Fahrenheit) is provided to all basement and other areas where the pipes are located.
Never leave a garage door open in severely cold weather. The cold and draft can freeze water lines in minutes. Pipes located in unheated basements or garages should be insulated with a commercial covering.
Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water at the water main, in case pipes burst. Stopping the flow of water can minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent. Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
If you are leaving your home unattended:
- Maintain heat in all areas to minimize the possibility of pipes freezing. Leave the thermostat set at 65 degrees or above.
- Leave doors open under the sink or other closed areas to circulate warm air.
- If you do not have hot water or steam heat, turn the water off at the water main shut-off valve and open the hot and cold faucets in the kitchen sink.
- Have a trusted friend check your vacant home daily to make sure the heat is still on to help prevent freezing.
- Have our Sentry Alarm Heat Monitoring System installed.
Water pipes which are exposed to freezing temperatures or drafts should be covered with insulation. Whenever possible it is best to drain systems not being used in severely cold weather. Small water pipes will freeze quicker than will waste or sewer pipes.
By setting aside a few weekends now, you’ll be saving you and your home a lot of aggravation later. Once your home passes your fall inspection, you and your family can relax and enjoy the coming months.