Is the Plumbing in Your House Winter-Ready?

You may be ready for sweater weather and winter sports, but how about your house? When temperatures dip below 20F, pipes begin to freeze. This can be a minor annoyance, or a major crisis if the pipes burst and flood the house. It’s best to prepare for the season by making sure the pipes are insulated, and taking other steps to keep them from freezing. If the pipes do freeze, you may be able to unfreeze them using some simple methods. If that doesn’t work, make sure you have the number for reliable nearby plumbers handy.

Frozen pipes are a problem waiting to happen
Frozen pipes can be a problem in the winter. A minor problem is one that be easily fixed by applying heat. A major problem can cause the pipes to burst causing flooding indoors and even structural damage. That’s when you’ll need to call the emergency plumbers.
But there are plenty of things you can do to prevent a call to the emergency plumber. The water in pipes begins to freeze when temperature dip below 20F. The best way to avoid this problem is by preventing it from happening in the first place, by insulating all pipes and spigots in cold areas like basements and attics or next to exterior walls. You don’t need to call in the plumbers to do this for you. It’s an easy DIY project to insulate the pipes and plumbing, and one that will save you a lot of trouble down the line.
Is your plumbing winter-ready?
The first thing to check when you’re winterizing your home is whether the plumbing and pipes are insulated. Make sure that both hot and cold water taps in colder areas like basements, crawl spaces, exterior walls and attics are insulated. If not, you can insulate them yourself by using snap-on foam insulation. Outdoor faucets should be covered too.
If you don’t have insulation foam, you can improvise using rags, newspaper and old towels to wrap up pipes and spigots. Make sure that the pipes and spigots are completely covered and use string or duct tape to secure the insulating material.

Other ways to keep the pipes from freezing
Besides insulating all exposed pipes and faucets, there are a few other steps you can take to prevent the pipes from freezing. Letting faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms drip very slowly keeps the water moving in the pipes and prevents it from freezing. Both hot and cold water faucets should be set to drip.
If your kitchen or bathroom cabinets are placed against an outside wall, keep the doors open to allow heat from the living areas to reach the pipes in the cabinets. Insulating the basement and attics will keep you house at a more even temperature in summer and winter. It will also help to keep the pipes from freezing.

How to unfreeze the pipes
Despite all precautions, you may still find yourself dealing with frozen pipes in extreme cold weather. If it is a minor problem, you may be able to thaw out the pipes yourself, without having to call in nearby plumbers. Keep nearby faucets open to relieve pressure in the pipes. Then apply heat to the pipe using a hair dryer, portable space heater or heat lamp. Begin with the sections near the faucet and work your way towards the colder part of the pipe.
If you can’t unfreeze the pipes yourself, it’s best to call in nearby plumbers, before any major damage occurs. Once the water is running again, check the pipe for any leaks that may have developed. Even minor leaks can waste a lot of water, and cost as much as $164.50 over a twelve-month period.

Frozen pipes are one of the less pleasant things about winter, but with a little planning and elbow grease, you can prevent this from happening. Insulating pipes and spigots will keep the plumbing functioning smoothly all year, without any need for emergency calls to nearby plumbers.


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