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Posted on October 9, 2019


The leaves may still be falling, but brings us closer to our old friend, Old Man Winter.  The decreasing temperatures will lead to icy conditions outside. Sometimes, you may find that ice trying to sneak its way into your home and cause thousands of dollars of water damage.

How does water behave when it freezes?

As a liquid, water molecules take up most of the free space in the area in occupies. As it freezes, crystals begin to form. The molecule structure gets stiffer and starts to open space up between molecules. In other words, it expands when it freezes. It is one of the few exceptions to most liquids that contract when they solidify.

The expanding action of freezing water is what can destroy pipes. Just like when it is a liquid, water will find the path of least resistance and will burst through the weakest point of the pipe. Pipes that burst can cause a great deal of damage in your home if not prevented beforehand or addressed quickly and safely after a burst. The following tips will help you prevent frozen pipes and/or tell you how to deal with a burst pipe situation.



1.  Know Your System

Getting to know the plumbing routing in your home can help diagnose several problems including where a frozen or burst pipe is. The most important part of the plumbing system you should know is the main shut-off valve. This valve will stop the water supply from entering your home. In case of a burst pipe or other plumbing emergency closing the shut-off valve can prevent further water damage to your home.




2.  Heading Outside

When you are getting familiar with the plumbing system in your home, don’t forget the outdoor spigots and hoses. Being a direct connection to the frosty weather, they are a common failure point when it comes to freezing. There are some tips to follow to prepare the outdoor plumbing for the winter:

  • Find the individual shutoff valves for each outdoor spigot (usually in the basement near where the spigot goes through the wall) and close them.
  • Disconnect the hose from the spigot. If the hose is left connected, the water in it may freeze and do damage to the spigot and accompanying pipes.
  • For hose longevity, make sure it is well-drained and store it somewhere out of the elements like a garage or a shed.



3.  Fix Problems Now

Just as the title says; Fix any plumbing issues before they become a larger problem. The colder weather will test some plumbing and any weaknesses in your system may be pushed to a breaking point. Even the smallest leaks should be addressed as they can become huge problems later. To get these problems fixed right, call a licensed plumber like Wm. T. Spaeder.



4.  Insulate Your Pipes

After you find where your plumbing is routed, consider insulating the pipes. Plumbing insulation comes in various forms and is quite affordable. If it saves your pipes from freezing or bursting, it is well worth the investment.



5.  Thermostat Settings

Money is tight for a great many people so finding a thermostat setting in the winter can be a battle of comfort versus gas bill. Cold temperatures can permeate the plumbing system in your home even if it is above freezing inside. The Red Cross recommends keeping the temperature inside any room with plumbing no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, consider periodically opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets that may hide plumbing. This will allow the warm air to flow into those areas around the pipes to prevent freezing. Make sure that children and puppies don’t get into the chemicals if they are in these cabinets.

6.  Run a Trickle

The temperature in the Erie area can regularly drop to below 15 degrees. If it’s below that level, the chances are higher that pipes will freeze. Consider running your taps at a slow, but steady trickle. Keeping water moving through the pipes will keep the water from settling and freezing. Running the water may cost a little more but the small cost for the water will save you thousands in plumbing and water damage repairs if a pipe were to freeze and burst.



7.  Worst Case

What happens if you do have a frozen or burst pipe? Sometimes this happens and it’s good to be prepared for the worst. Here are some steps to minimize the damage that a frozen or burst pipe can cause:

What to do when a pipe freezes:

  • Open faucets to relieve any built-up pressure
  • If you can access the pipe begin the thawing process. If you can’t get to it, call for professional help.
  • A hair dryer works well as a relatively safe heat source to thaw a pipe you can access.
  • Take your time. Gradually heat the frozen area closest to the faucet or sink first.
  • DO NOT USE A BLOWTORCH or anything with an open flame. You could cause pipe damage by applying so much heat so quickly or even start a house fire. While that would thaw all your pipes, it’s not a perfect method.
  • Inspect the pipe where it was frozen for cracks or weak points and consider calling a licensed plumber to replace the pipe if needed.

What to do when a pipe bursts:

  • Close the main shutoff valve to stop all water flowing into the house.
  • Be careful if there is standing water. It could be in contact with an electrical source that could electrocute you.
  • When it is safe, observe the damage to see what you need to do next. Whether it’s just cleaning a small mess or getting a water damage restoration company involved.

If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to call us at 814.456.7014 for 24-7 service.



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