Prevention is the best way to save yourself and your family the stresses that come from broken pipes. There are a number of ways you can secure your property against the cold and ensure a pipe won’t break in the first place.
Starting on the outside, look at areas where water or pipes are exposed to the cold. For instance, insulate or drain any waterlines going into and out of a swimming pool. Detach hoses from water outlets, and cover the spigots with towels, foam caps, or some other material that will insulate against the frigid winds. Even a thick layer of newspaper duct-taped around it can help. Finally, seal any holes or cracks in your outside walls with silicon or caulk.
Experts remind us to keep the faucets dripping on a cold, cold winter night to give water between the expanding frozen water and your faucet a way of escape. Remember, contrary to popular belief, a slow trickle in your sink will not guarantee your pipes will remain unfrozen, but it can reduce the chances. Even so, the best prevention measure is to make certain that all pipes are insulated, especially those that run through an outside wall, a basement, or an attic.
Also, when warned of a serious Arctic front approaching, keep the sink cabinet doors open as this will allow the warmer air to circulate around the sink pipes. Finally, if you go out of town, don’t turn your thermostat down below 55 degrees.
- How do breaks happen?
When an un-insulated length of pipe is exposed to cold, the water inside will freeze rapidly. The freezing itself doesn’t cause the break (another myth exposed). But, as water freezes it expands. As this happens the water trapped between the frozen part and the spigot has no place to go unless the valve is left open. Your pipes and joints are made to withstand normal water pressure. When the pressure is multiplied many times, any defect in the pipe or joint will eventually break if the pressure is not relieved.
- Unfreezing the pipes:
In some cases, you should call a plumber to unfreeze your pipes. However, if the frozen area is relatively easily accessible, there are ways to safely remedy the frozen blockage. First, open up the connecting spigot or faucet all the way. Then use something to warm the pipe. Using a hair dryer can get the water flowing, or wrap a heating pad can be wrapped around the exposed area. Once the blockage is even partially cleared, flowing water will tend to make the ice melt faster. Keep the water running until it flows freely.
Broken pipes can cost thousands of dollars in water damage to a home. Also excess water in an attic or inside a wall can breed black mold or mildew. Then you can have some serious health issues. Spending a little money foam pipe sleeves, insulation, and other preventatives could save a lot more in the long run. All things considered, that proverbial ounce of prevention is usually less costly.