The holiday season is filled with unexpected events that add to the festivities. A surprise visit from an old friend or an unexpected gift from an unlikely source can lift your spirits and enhance your enjoyment of the holidays. But some surprises, like frozen or burst pipes, have no place in the holiday celebrations. With a little preparation and few precautions you can avoid this unpleasant surprise when the temperatures drop.
Insulate Unheated Areas
If your water pipes run through an unheated area of your home, such as crawl spaces, basements or attics, it is important that the area is sealed and insulated properly.
Use foam board insulation for large areas, like the sides of a crawl space or the basement wall. You can cut foam board to size and fill in the gap between rafters or wall supports. Screw it in place with sheet rock screws. You can also use rolled fiberglass insulation to fill in small gaps and hard to reach areas. Because it is flexible, rolled insulation can be cut and tucked into any size area.
One of the most common culprits that cause frozen pipes is cracks and holes around the foundation or the area where your pipes enter the home. While they might not look menacing to you, cold air can whisk in through tiny cracks and cause your pipes to freeze. Make sure you use caulking to seal cracks around doors or windows, and tuck insulation around the water line as it enters the home.
Use Pipe Insulation
You can buy foam pipe insulation at your local hardware store. This slips over the length of pipe and protects it from freezing. Putting pipe insulation on the pipes in unheated areas of the home can prevent your pipes from freezing when Mother Nature sends an arctic vortex your way.
Avoid Turning Down the Thermostat
Avoid the temptation to turn your thermostat down at night. Although it keeps the interior of your home warm enough for sleeping, areas under counters and sinks might get too cold and cause your pipes to freeze. During extreme cold, keep the thermostat on your daytime setting during the night, too.
Use Space Heaters
If you have areas that routinely freeze despite your efforts to insulate them, use a space heater on cold nights to keep the temperature above freezing. You don't need to keep the area warm and toasty, but you do need to keep it above freezing. Always observe the proper safety precautions and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for space heater use.
Open Cabinet Doors
If you are expecting sub-zero temperatures during the night, open the doors to your kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. Under the sink is a common freezing point for water pipes.
Leave the Faucet Dripping
Letting the faucet drip on cold nights might not prevent the pipe from freezing, but if it does freeze, this will relieve pressure in the pipe and prevent it from bursting. Burst pipes typically occur when the water in the pipes freezes and pressure builds up between the frozen area and the faucet. An open faucet prevents the build up of pressure in the pipe and reduces the chances of burst pipes.
If you continue to have problems with frozen or burst pipes, contact your plumbing contractor. He can move the line for you or offer suggestions for weatherizing the area to prevent further problems. He can also thaw your pipes safely and avoid the mess of burst pipes. Keep the number of your emergency plumber near the phone in case of unexpected problems. The middle of the winter is no time to be searching the yellow pages for a Chicago plumber to solve your problems.