Frozen pipes can increase stress on residential and commercial systems and cause thousands of dollars of damage. When water freezes, it expands. The expanded water puts pressure on the whole system, particularly in places that are older or not properly maintained, resulting in much larger issues such as a burst pipe. Outdoor pipes like hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines are most vulnerable to cold temperatures. While we can’t control the outside temperature, we can take certain precautions to prevent pipes from freezing.
As an Erie company, Wm. T. Spaeder is accustomed to dealing with subzero temperatures, heaps of snow, and freezing rain. We also know all about frozen pipes and the best way to fix (and prevent) them. As much as we want to show off for you, we would prefer that you be trouble free this winter by taking the proper precautions to prevent frozen pipes in the first place.
Here are Some Tips to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
Protecting your pipes from cold conditions is the key to preventing a pipe freeze. Here are a few simple ways to ensure that your system ready for the change in weather.
1. Insulate Exterior Water Pipes.
Insulation keeps things warm and prevents heat dissipation. Pipes that are on the outside of your building or run through traditionally uninsulated areas like basements or crawl spaces are more prone to freezing. Insulating these pipes will protect them from the cold. At times, even pipes that are indoors could benefit from insulation depending on your circumstances or if you’ve had problem with freezing pipes in the past.
Types of insulation include foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves that are fitted around the pipe. While insulation is a good solution to prevent heat from escaping, it does not add heat to the pipe and may not work in every situation.
2. Use Heating Tape
Yes, there is tape that actually heats up! Similar to an electric blanket, heating tape uses electrical energy to generate warmth. This is best for smaller sections of pipe because (1) it is pricey and (2) you have to plug it in.
3. Get Regular Inspections
It’s important to have a trained professional look over your water system to ensure everything is in working order. Regular maintenance checks will isolate problem areas before they become actual problems and worn components can be replaced before being put under stress.
4. Release Pipe Pressure
While pipes can break under pressure, there is a simple solution: running water. Running a little bit of water at a slow rate can relieve pressure inside the pipes and prevent ice from building up. If a faucet is connected to both hot and cold water pipes, make sure to let both taps run a bit. This is particularly a good practice if the temperature outside is set to stay below freezing for more than a day. If the water stops, it could be a symptom of a problem, and you should have it inspected immediately.
5. Turn Up the Heat
Keeping the inside of your building above 60 degrees Fahrenheit can generate enough heat to keep your pipes warm and prevent them from freezing. Opening cupboard doors below sinks and in storage areas allows some of this heat to circulate around your interior pipes and help maintain their temperature. This is especially helpful if the pipes are against an outside wall. In commercial spaces, places like fire pump houses, dry-pipe valves and wet-pipe sprinkler systems can be vulnerable. It might be beneficial to run an electric space heater in these areas.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
So, what happens if you did everything that you could, and in spite of your best efforts, you still have a frozen pipe problem? Some indications that you have frozen pipes include (1) very little or no water is coming out of the pipes, (2) there is frost on the pipes, and (3) discolored water coming from the pipes. When this happens, if you know where the frozen pipe is, you can always warm it up yourself using something like a heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater. A quick note, don’t use anything with an open flame like a blow torch. That can be dangerous.
If you have trouble thawing the pipe or are not able to isolate the pipe that is frozen, call a licensed plumber. If the pipe bursts and you have a flood on your hands (or even for a tiny crack), shut off your main water supply… and call a licensed plumber.
At Wm. T. Spaeder, we know winter. We’ve served Erie for over 100 winters and are dedicated to protecting the well-being of our customers and keeping their property in pristine condition. For immediate service, give us a call at (814) 456.7014. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are always ready to help.