Winters are becoming less predictable. It can be 50’s one day and mid-teens the next. By tomorrow afternoon we may all be standing in line at Target, Walmart or the local grocer, making sure we are stocked up on all our food staples JUST in case we are trapped in our homes for the weekend. Chasing down a gallon of milk, candles or ice melt doesn’t sound like a great way to spend an evening, but a little forced stay-cation could be just what the Dr. ordered. I have to admit, a weekend stuck with Netflix, a fire, and Chiefs football sounds like a little slice of heaven. But the truth of the matter is, there may be more to be concerned about then whether or not we’re loud and proud in Chief’s kingdom on Sunday. Your pipes may need some attention this weekend.
As temperatures drop our water pipes fall into the category of potential freeze options. Once a pipe freezes it increases the likelihood of a break in the water line. This could have a definite impact not only on the stay-cation idea, but can come at a significant cost to you the homeowner.
How and why does this happen you ask, and what can be done to try prevent this madness from happening in your home? The why, is because the drop in temperature means the water coming into your home is much colder and any pipes on outside walls have the potential to have the water freeze in the pipes. When water freezes, it expands. You know, like that summer you wanted a cold coke and decided to put it in the freezer and completely forgot about it. Only to have your mom come home and find it had exploded. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough the pipe bursts, which means you have to forget about the game and focus on damage control.
We prefer not to focus on damage control, so let’s talk prevention. Here are six steps you can take to increase the likelihood your pipes remain intact during cold snaps.
- Water moving through the pipes should prevent the line from freezing, so keep one or two faucets running slowly at all times.
- Check your outside faucets. Your hose should be disconnected. This is one area that is common for freeze breaks, because the water is not able to drain out of your hose bib, and is likely to freeze.
- More often than not the pipes that freeze are located near an outside wall or a window, so be sure to direct warm air to any colder areas of your home.
- Many kitchen sinks are on an outside wall, if yours is one of them then be sure to leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air into the cabinet. This is true for any faucets you have that are on outside walls. These are usually the best faucets to leave on during extremely cold weather.
- Heat tape can also be installed and will warm pipes as needed during cold weather. Check Home Depot or Lowe’s and give us a call if you have questions on how to install it.
- If you have any air leaks, like around dryer vents, pipes or wiring, then make sure those are sealed. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. A tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
You really don’t want temps dropping below 32 where your pipes are located so do your best to keep them above freezing. If you have any concerns about your plumbing or need more information about how to prevent pipes from freezing just call Quality Plumbing and an expert plumber will be happy to help you.
Let’s talk what-if. Say you’re sitting there all cozy just watching the power lines freeze. You’re thinking your water lines are safe and then you open a faucet and no water comes out. Don’t take any chances. Give us a call. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve. This is usually located at the water meter or where the main line enters the house, and you will want to leave the faucet(s) open. Now let’s talk a little logic here. Don’t try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. This will damage the pipe and may even start fire. You might be able to thaw a pipe with a handheld hair dryer, once you are certain water is shut off. You want to apply heat slowly, starting at the end of the pipe closest to the faucet, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section. One more common sense piece of advice to throw at you. Don’t use electrical appliances while standing in water, you could get electrocuted.
Our next winter blast is well on its way. Get your food staples ready for the potential icy weekend ahead. While you’re at it check your pipes, and not just the vocal ones you’ll be using on Sunday. Give us a call if you need us to give you a hand with your plumbing preparation, or if the cold gets to your pipes before you do. We hope you all stay safe and cozy this weekend, and that we all enjoy a big win on Sunday. GO CHIEFS!