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Cold Weather Ahead? Prevent or Fix Frozen Pipes

If you live in Burnaby, where we are getting substantially colder weather, you must learn how to prevent pipes from freezing. Modern homes frequently have pipelines placed in ways to avoid issues like this, but older homes may have bare pipes near the exterior walls. If this is the case, choosing the best insulation is vital to prevent freezing and cracking. Both can make it impossible to access home water and lead to flooding and significant water damage. Read below to learn how to avoid those issues and keep the plumbing in good shape.

When Do Pipes Freeze?

Because the insulation and water will move when the faucets are used, most pipes aren’t frozen when temperatures remain above -6 degrees Celsius. Although water can freeze at 0 degrees Celsius, it’s usually too warm, close to the pipes, for them to start to freeze. In areas with typical cold weather, insulation is likely added around the pipelines to help prevent freezing. There may not be as much insulation in areas where the weather is typically milder in the winter, and this could mean the pipes can freeze at around -6 degrees.

How Long Does it Take for a Pipe to Freeze?

The amount of time it takes will vary based on the amount of insulation, how quickly the temperatures drop, and whether the faucets are turned on. According to recent studies, pipes can freeze in under two and a half hours. After the pipes freeze, it’s not long before they will burst. When pipes are more vulnerable to freezing, the most common time for a problem is during the night since temperatures are at their lowest.

Prevent Pipes From Freezing.

Preventing pipes from freezing is always better in the long run since this can help prevent water damage. Most solutions to help prevent frozen pipes are inexpensive and work well, so it’s best to try them out and help prevent frozen pipes instead of hoping for the best and cleaning up any messes that do happen.

Inspect the Plumbing System

Check the blueprints for the home to see where the pipes are located. If this isn’t possible, start by looking in unheated areas of the house, like basements or garages. Follow the visible pipelines to discover where they are more vulnerable to cold temperatures. Use a temperature sensor to see which areas enable the pipes to be exposed to temperatures close to what they are outside.

Purchase Insulation or Pipe Sticks

Numerous types of insulation are available depending on the kind of pipes, whether hot or cold, and how they run. Rigid insulated tubes will slip onto the pipelines but work best when there are few joints or turns. Wrap-around insulation is easier to bend, so it’s a better option if there are complex joints or bends. Other types of insulation include using cotton instead of fiberglass or opting for insulated pouches.

Install Insulation Properly

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when installing the insulation. Ensure the pipes are completely covered but avoid causing problems with access if a plumber needs to do any repairs. If freezing temperatures are likely, use adhesive duct tape or another type of tape to secure the insulation to the pipes.

Keep an Eye on the Insulation

No matter how well the insulation is installed, it can be undone or repaired. Before cold weather arrives, check to ensure the insulation is still secured to the pipes. If the insulation has come off or the tape is no longer attached, go ahead and replace it. Do this regularly during the cold weather to ensure the insulation stays in place properly.

Prep for the Colder Weather

You should completely drain any outdoor plumbing lines before the weather gets cold. Winterize the water lines to swimming pools, sprinkler systems, and hoses. It would be better to remove hoses altogether to help prevent them from freezing. Make sure the valves outside are turned off. Do not use antifreeze inside the water supply lines outdoors. Ensure they are correctly winterized, making them less likely to freeze during a cold snap.

Run a Little Bit of Water

In the coldest areas of the home, where pipes will likely freeze, turn on the faucets to create a water flow because a trickle of water is enough to keep the water moving, which can help prevent pipes from freezing. Turning faucets on or on all of them is optional, as most should be well protected from the winter weather.

Keep the Pipes Warm

On top of adding insulation, it is essential to keep cold air away from them or bring in warm air to help prevent freezing. Do not close off any indoor pipes from the heat inside the home. If the plumbing wall runs along the exterior wall and into a sink cabinet, leave the cabinets open at least a little bit. If the cabinets are closed, it will be colder behind them, which can increase the potential for the pipes to freeze and burst. If the doors are open a little bit, the heat in the home can get inside the cabinets and help keep the pipes warmer.

Leave the Heat On

Even if you’re planning on being out of town, do not turn off the heat in the home, as this will decrease the potential for frozen and burst pipes. The temperature can be lower than it would be if you were home; keep the heat on. This provides at least some heat inside the house, keeping the pipes warmer and reducing the potential for them to freeze and burst while you’re gone.

Take Advantage of New Technology

Some devices can help prevent frozen pipes even if you aren’t home. Freeze alarms can be placed near the pipelines and will sound if the temperatures around them get too low. Opt for one that can send an alert to a phone, so it’s possible to keep an eye on the temperatures in the home and the potential for frozen pipes even if you are away from home. There is also hot water circulating pumps that you can purchase. These pumps keep an eye on the temperature of pipes and will send warm water through all lines if the temperature drops too low.

Learn How to Handle Frozen Pipes

Despite taking precautions, it’s still possible to end up with a frozen pipe. Dealing with them right away is key to minimizing the amount of water damage that can occur.

Find the Pipe That’s Frozen

Briefly open each of the faucets in the home to see how much water comes out. If there’s only a trickle of water, it’s a sign that there’s a frozen pipe somewhere between the source of water to the home and the faucet. This narrows down the area to search for the frozen pipe. Please start at the tap, then follow the line away from it to find the coldest pipes. This is likely where the ice will be in the pipes. If one pipe has frozen, it’s essential to check other faucets, as they could also freeze them.

Limit the Water that Can Run Out

Turn off the water supply to the frozen pipes. This is typically done by turning the shut-off valve to the right. Do this for each shut-off valve in the home, not just the one by the frozen pipe. When the blockage thaws, the quantity of water behind the backup that is piling up may produce a leak. Grab supplies to handle any leak, such as a bucket, towels, or mop, so you’re prepared if the pipe leaks.

Open the Faucets

After the water is shut off throughout the home, open all the faucets to drain any remaining water. Many of the pipes in the house are connected, so doing this can help relieve the water pressure that has built up behind the frozen line. Make sure to flush each toilet once so as much water as possible is removed.

Start Using Heat

Heat should be carefully applied to the frozen areas of the pipe. It’s possible to use a hairdryer, portable space heater, or electric heating pad. It would be best to do this until the water pressure is restored. It is a good idea to start at the area closest to a nearby outlet, like in a kitchen or bathroom, to enable steam or water to escape the pipes easier. Do not use a propane heater, blowtorch, or any other open flame to heat the pipes, as this can be dangerous and increase the potential for things to go wrong.

Slowly Restore Water to the Home

Start turning on the water throughout the house one valve at a time. As this is done, keep an eye out for any leaks. Other areas may have frozen and started leaking. If a leak is noticed, immediately turn off the water supply to that pipe and contact a plumber. Make sure to turn off any faucets that are still on, as well, if they were not shut off after draining the water from the pipes.

Have the Pipe Repaired if Needed

Even if the frozen section of pipes was caught early enough and thawed successfully, a crack is still possible. Check for cracks carefully before turning the water supply back on. If part of the frozen pipe starts to leak, the water should be left off, and a plumber should repair it immediately. This will help minimize the potential for severe water damage from a leak.

Dealing With a Burst Pipe

A frozen pipe not dealt with early will expand, causing the pipe to burst. In most cases, this will mean calling a Burnaby plumber for help. Shut the water off to the pipe or the whole home. This helps minimize the amount of water that will flow out of it and cause damage to the house.

If you can locate the source of water, start cleaning up immediately. If the water is near an electrical system, shut off the main breaker until it is safe to have the electricity on again. Since this does turn off the heat, it’s imperative to have a plumber handle the repair before more pipes end up frozen. At the source of the water, start soaking up as much water as possible using towels or a mop. This can help reduce the potential for more severe damage, as the water won’t be there long enough to cause extensive damage.

Call a plumber in Burnaby immediately to determine the extent of the plumbing system and structural damage and whether it is covered by insurance. Document the damage while waiting for the plumber by taking many photos. If a claim is needed, the pictures will prove what and how much damage was done to the residence.

Preventing frozen pipes is often more straightforward than it may seem, and it’s the best strategy for homeowners. Proper prevention includes installing insulation, which is easy and can be combined with other techniques to reduce the potential for any pipe to freeze significantly. If there is a frozen pipe, it will need to be handled carefully to prevent additional issues. If a pipe bursts, it’s crucial to shut off the water quickly and contact a plumber at New West Plumbing as soon as possible to tackle the repairs.