Tips to Prevent Freezing Pipes

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Tips to Prevent Freezing Pipes

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When temperatures drop, frozen pipes are a real threat in households throughout the Central Indiana region. Pipe freezes have the potential to cause serious damage in a home, from damaged plumbing to major water leaks. 

Prevent freezing pipes when you know the right actions to take. The experienced plumbers of Williams Comfort Air explain the steps Indianapolis area homeowners need to take to prevent freezing pipes. We share what to do ahead of time as well as when you face freezing weather to protect your plumbing and your home.

Why Frozen Pipes Are a Problem

Frozen pipes cause serious damage in Indianapolis area homes. When water freezes within a plumbing pipe, it expands. The ice that forms places pressure against the pipe and traps water trying to move through, which causes pressure to build. These sources of pressure weaken plumbing pipes, and cause the potential for a burst pipe.

Even tiny leaks in pipes cause significant water leakage, which results in water damage to your home. As the pipes in your home are hidden, water leaks can persist for extended periods of time before they are found, which results in severe water damage.

Prevent Freezing Pipes: Proactive Measures

Take preventative measures to reduce the potential for pipe freezes this winter. The following home maintenance tasks help you protect your plumbing and prevent freezing pipes this season and ongoing.

  1. Drain outdoor hose bibs
  2. Insulate pipes and surrounding areas
  3. Seal gaps and cracks

Drain Hose Bibs

A hose bib is another term for the outdoor water spigot that supplies garden hoses. Each fall, it is important that you take proactive measures and clear this line of water to prevent freezing pipes, as the hose bib is prone to freezing.

All garden hoses should be disconnected from the outdoor hose bib, drained, and stored for the winter. This not only helps prevent freezing pipes connected to the hose bib, but protects garden hoses from damage caused when water inside freezes. Freezing water causes the hose material to expand and contract, which leads to cracks that make your hose unusable come spring.

To drain hose bibs, follow these instructions for each hose bib installed:

  1. Find the shutoff valve to the hose bib, located inside the home. This shutoff may be in your basement, crawlspace, or utility closet. Shut the valve to stop the flow of water. 
  2. Open the hose bib via the outside valve and allow any remaining water in the line to drain. Leave it open throughout the winter, as this allows any water that comes into the pipe to drain out instead of remaining, where it could freeze.
  3. Return to the shutoff valve and find the bleed valve, it is typically located below the hose bib’s shutoff valve. Place a bowl or bucket below and open the bleed valve, and allow any remaining water the drain.

Consider upgrading your hose bibs to frost-free hose bibs to help prevent freezing pipes and lessen your household maintenance duties. A frost-free hose bib’s supply pipe and shutoff valve extend farther into the home than a traditional hose bib’s, which reduces the likelihood of freezing because it is exposed to warmer temperatures. The supply pipe is also installed at a downward angle to allow water to drain out rather than sit in the pipe and freeze.

Up Your Insulation

Plumbing pipes run through many uninsulated areas of the home, where they are exposed to colder temperatures that cause freezing. When you improve insulation levels of these areas, more heat is kept within to keep them warmer and prevent freezing pipes. Consider the addition of insulation to walls, ceilings, and below floors to protect your plumbing during cold weather.

Pipes themselves also benefit from direct insulation. Foam and fiberglass sleeves are made to wrap around pipes to insulate them and reduce the risk of freezing. This is an excellent solution for exposed pipes in underinsulated or uninsulated areas of the home. 

Air Sealing

In addition to insulation improvements, keep the areas of your home where plumbing lines run warmer when you seal up gaps and cracks. Examine both the interior and exterior of your home for gaps and openings that allow air to flow into your walls, basement, or crawlspace. Caulk or spray foam insulation should be used, depending on the materials involved. Look for cracks in the foundation, exterior pipe or wire penetrations, and other openings, and make sure they are sealed for the winter.

For homes on crawlspaces, make sure crawlspace vents are closed for winter. This keeps more warmth in the crawlspace to prevent freezing pipes. It also prevents cold air infiltration from outdoors to protect pipes and keep your home warmer.

Prevent Freezing Pipes When Temperatures Drop

In addition to prevention ahead of time, there are actions homeowners need to take during cold spells to prevent freezing pipes. When you know cold temperatures are expected, do the following:

  • Keep the heat on in your home. You never want to turn the heating system fully off during the winter, as doing so increases the risk of pipe freezes. If you go on vacation or in vacant properties, keep the heat set above 50 degrees throughout the winter months. There’s no need to fully heat the home and waste energy when no one is there to benefit from it, but the pipes do need protection, which a temperature above 50 degrees offers.
  • Warm the areas where pipes run. Open cabinet doors below sinks and open doors to utility closets where pipes run. This is especially important for plumbing fixtures and lines that sit on exterior walls, as they are more likely to freeze because they are exposed to colder temperatures more so than pipes that sit towards the interior of a home. With open cabinet doors, warm air from the home moves into this space and warms plumbing lines to prevent freezing pipes.
  • Turn on your taps. Allow a slight stream of cold water to trickle from faucets served by exposed plumbing lines. This keeps water moving through the lines so it is less likely to freeze and cause problems.

Know the Signs of Frozen Pipes

Despite your best efforts to prevent freezing pipes, a pipe freeze could still occur in your home this winter. Watch for the signs that indicate frozen pipes so you know when they happen and are able to start thawing them to prevent extensive damage.

Signs of frozen pipes include:

  • No water or minimal water flowing from your taps
  • Water supply from pipes is uneven
  • Odors from drains and faucets, which indicate a pipe blockage that could be caused by freezing
  • Visible frost on your pipes
  • Damp walls or visible leaks
  • A whistling sound from your pipes, which indicates a burst pipe that may be the result of freezing

If You Have Frozen Pipes…

If you do encounter frozen pipes at home this winter, you need to be careful. You don’t know the extent of the damage that may have been caused – if a pipe has already burst, thawing the frozen pipe can lead to a significant flood in your home as well as resulting water damage. Turn off the water supply to your home at the main shutoff valve and call for plumbing repairs right away.

If no pipes have burst or caused significant leaks, take steps to thaw them right away to prevent damage.

  1. Turn the faucet on to allow melting ice to flow through the pipe, and allow running water to help melt frozen sections.
  2. Apply heat to the area of piping that has frozen. Use a hair dryer, electric heating pad, portable space heater, or wrap hot water-soaked towels around the frozen section. Do not use high heat devices or those with open flames.
  3. Continue to apply heat until you have full water pressure in the home.
  4. Check all other taps and pipes in your home to uncover any additional frozen pipes.

If you are unable to determine where a pipe has frozen, call your plumber. Your plumber is able to inspect your system, locate the frozen section, safely thaw pipes, and inspect your plumbing lines for damage.

Call Williams Comfort Air for Help

Whether you need professional help to prevent freezing pipes or need help thawing pipes and making repairs, call the licensed plumbers of Williams Comfort Air. Our plumbers perform thorough plumbing system inspections to ensure the good condition of your pipes and make upgrades to your system components that reduce the likelihood of freezing.

Should you experience frozen pipes this winter, call us right away for assistance. Our plumbers are available 24/7, every day of the year to provide the emergency plumbing repairs you need to avoid costly water damage and restore the use of your home’s plumbing system. We locate frozen piping, thaw it quickly, and inspect for damage to prevent water leaks at home. If you need plumbing service, call us today and we will quickly dispatch a licensed plumber to assist you.

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