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Winter and Disaster Prep

4 Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes in Your Home This Winter

Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Graybill

If the pipes in your home are not properly insulated, the water running through them can freeze when temperatures drop. Frozen pipes have the potential to burst and cause flooding that can damage your home. Here are some tips to prevent a disaster this winter.

1. Bleed and drain outside faucets

If you have an outside faucet or hose bib, make sure to drain and bleed the line (activate the shut-off valve and drain the water) every fall before the cold weather starts. In warmer climates, these pipes are often installed without insulation or foam around the openings. This is fine most of the time, but all it takes is one unexpected cold snap for freezing to occur. Install “non-freeze” hose bibs that create a break in the piping to prevent cold from penetrating into the supply pipe.

2. Stabilize home temperature

If you are going away for an extended period of time during the winter months, it’s good practice to keep your home at a consistent temperature no lower than 60° F. With proper insulation, an HRV and clean HVAC filters, you can heat your home more efficiently to help offset the cost of running the furnace while you’re not home.

3. Insulate your pipes

It helps to insulate your water supply pipes, especially if they are copper lines. Metal, including copper, conducts cold, so freezing can occur even on the warm side of your insulated space. I like to use PEX piping and pipe insulation to limit the possibility of freezing.

4. Wrap pipes and seal gaps

Never have exposed pipes on the inside of non-insulated exterior walls. Even if installed on the warm side of the insulation, it may not be enough to prevent freezing. If you have exposed pipes in your basement, make sure they are not touching the perimeter wall and wrap the pipes with an insulated pipe wrap or heat tape. It’s easy — and economical — to install. Make sure that you seal any gaps surrounding pipe penetration areas, like dryer vents (where a pipe enters or exits an exterior wall of your house) with expandable spray foam and caulk to prevent cold air drafts.

If you think your pipes may be frozen (you have no water or your water pressure is very low) don’t try to fix it yourself.  Turn off the water from the main valve and call a plumber. Of course, the best way to deal with frozen pipes is to prevent them from freezing in the first place. Perform your necessary maintenance, and shut off and drain any exterior faucets when needed to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

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