You do a lot already to properly prepare your home for winter.
But many homeowners are so busy checking their roofs, insulating their windows, and preparing their driveways for a snowstorm, they forget all about the dangers of frozen pipes.
So, at what temperature do pipes freeze, and why are frozen pipes something you should take seriously?
Most of all, what steps can you take now to ensure that your pipes don't freeze or burst when the temperature gets colder?
In this post, we'll tell you everything that you need to know about how to keep your pipes from freezing. We'll also fill you in on what to look out for when it comes to common signs of frozen pipes.
Finally, we'll tell you where you can go to get help if you suspect that your pipes have already frozen.
How Cold Does It Have to Be for Pipes to Freeze?
Before we get into what you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing, let's first make sure that you can answer the question, "When do pipes freeze?"
In general, you should expect your pipes to potentially freeze once the temperature gets close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's also important to recognize that, even if you live in a warmer climate, you're not immune from having to deal with frozen pipes.
In some cases, you may even be at a higher risk. This is because your pipes aren't insulated well enough to handle colder temperatures.
Pipes are also at a greater risk of freezing if they're located in the basement or the attic of your home. This is because they're not able to get as much heat as pipes in other parts of your home are.
So, when you're taking precautions to prevent your pipes from freezing, make sure that you pay special attention to pipes in those areas.
Common Signs of Frozen Pipes
Now that you know how to keep your pipes from freezing, let's talk about a few of the most common signs that it's too late.
If your pipes have already frozen, it's important to get professional help as soon as possible. If you know what to watch out for, you'll be able to act much faster -- potentially saving you from serious disaster.
Interestingly, one of the biggest signs of a frozen pipe is a nasty, strange smell from the drain in a sink or even the faucet itself. This is because the smell can't filter out of the pipe, and instead is forced to come back up towards your home.
You may also see visible signs of frost on the outside of your pipe, which is an almost certain sign that it's already frozen.
Of course, you may not even be able to get water to run out of your pipe. If you turn on your faucet but no water (or only a few random drips) come out? Then it's likely that they've frozen.
You might also hear whistling and banging coming from the pipes, or even strange bubbling sounds when you flush a toilet.
Finally, take a look at your drywall and ceilings. If you notice any kind of dampness, puddles, or rings, there's a serious issue.
Remember that, the longer you wait to thaw out the pipe, the more likely it is that it will burst. You don't want to deal with the expense of replacing a pipe as opposed to thawing it. You especially want to avoid damage to your floors and personal property.
Get in touch with a plumbing professional to get a handle on the situation as soon as possible.
The Dangers of Frozen Pipes
It's no secret that frozen pipes can cause flooding in your home and can be expensive to replace completely.
However, there are other, more serious consequences of frozen pipes that you need to be aware of.
First of all, you'll be without water -- or a consistent supply of it -- until you get the issue fixed. Especially if you're a landlord, it's your responsibility to ensure that the people in your building can take a shower, run their dishwashers and washing machines, and be able to cook their meals.
You don't want to run the risk of having them report you -- or refuse to renew their lease in the future.
Even worse, pipes could explode and burst if left untreated for too long. In some cases, this could lead to serious injury. In fact, when a pipe bursts, it's reached 40,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. It could also impact your ability to use your electricity, depending on the location of the burst pipe.
How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing
Now that you know much more about the basics of frozen pipes, let's talk about what you can do to stop them from freezing in the first place.
Luckily, there are several different tips and tricks that you can try out. For best results, we suggest that you combine a few of the tactics on this list.
1. Drip Faucets to Prevent Freezing
This is one of the most common tips when it comes to learning how to prepare your home for the winter and keep your pipes from freezing during the colder months.
So, how does letting your faucet drip stop the pipes from freezing in the first place?
It actually takes the pressure off of the pipes and your water tank system as a whole. Remember that, when pipes freeze, the pressure is what eventually leads them to burst.
If you have a bit of water running through your faucet, that high amount of pressure is unable to build up.
Just make sure that your drains are fully functioning before you try this tip. You don't want to run the risk of flooding your home because of an overflowing sink or tub.
We suggest only doing this when someone is in the home -- and for a limited time. Remember that you don't necessarily need a steady stream of water. A few occasional drips will work just as effectively.
2. Take Care of Cracks
You should also take a close look at the areas surrounding your pipes.
Do you spy any holes and cracks where cold air can leak in, speeding up the process of frozen pipes?
If so, now is the time to fully caulk and seal them. Remember that you need to take a look at both the interior and exterior walls of your home.
Plus, this will also prevent water from leaking into your home -- which can quickly become a real mess in the winter months.
3. Manage Your Heat
Of course, pipes can't exactly freeze if the temperature in your home isn't cold enough for them to be able to.
We understand that you might not be especially enthusiastic about leaving your heat on for longer periods of time. However, it's still a much more affordable option than replacing a broken or burst pipe.
Additionally, keep in mind that you don't need to crank up you heat completely in order to prevent pipes from freezing. In most cases, setting your heat to anywhere above 50 degrees Fahrenheit will keep things in good shape.
To prevent your heater from working too hard -- and your bills from going up -- make sure to have it inspected before the winter season begins.
4. Invest in Heating Tape
Another effective -- and affordable -- way to stop your pipes from freezing?
Make sure that you pick up some heating tape. You can actually put the heating tape directly on your pipes in order to keep them from getting too chilly.
In most cases, you should be able to choose between two main types of heating tape. You can look for an automatic option that can actually sense when your pipes are in need of some heat. Or, you can choose tape that can be plugged in only when in use.
Just make sure that you study up on all of the directions that come with your heating tape to prevent potential fires.
5. Check out Your Current Insulation
Earlier on in this post, we spoke about the importance of making sure that pipes in less visited areas of your home, like your basement or attic, got enough attention.
Take a look at your insulation in these areas, and determine if it might be smart to add another layer or two.
So, which materials should you use to properly insulate your pipes?
You can't go wrong with fiberglass sleeves or even foam rubber. If you're a bit anxious about properly fitting them on your own, then we suggest that you call in a professional to help you.
This is usually an effective solution for exposed pipes. However, if you have more serious concerns, then it may be the right time to re-insulate your walls and ceilings completely.
6. When in Doubt, Open Your Doors
One final tip on how to keep your pipes from freezing?
Believe it or not, keeping your interior doors open may be the solution you're after.
First of all, keeping things open will allow the heat to circulate better throughout your entire home. Additionally, make sure that you open up your cabinet door if you have pipes underneath the sink.
This will ensure that they're able to maintain a proper temperature to keep from freezing.
DIY Thawing Tips for Frozen Pipes
In most cases -- and especially if you're certain that the pipe has seriously frozen -- you'll need the help of a professional to thaw your pipes.
However, if you feel like it hasn't yet frozen completely, there are a few DIY hacks you can do to speed up the thawing process.
Before you try out any of these tips, make sure that the faucet is completely open (turn both the hot and cold handles if needed.)
Start as close to the faucet as possible to get the most effective and fastest thaw.
If you're trying to thaw an exposed pipe, you can wrap them in hot towels to slowly bring them back up to a warmer temperature. You can also use a hair dryer, a space heater, or even a heat lamp.
Keep in mind that you'll need to monitor the pipes during this entire process, as walking away can be seriously dangerous to not only your home but your plumbing as well. In the event that something does burst, know where your main valve water shut off is located and be able to access it quickly.
If the pipes are enclosed, start by turning up the heat in your home. In some cases, this may be enough to thaw them out.
You can also use a small infrared lamp. Hold it up to the area where you know the pipes are located for a few minutes. Sometimes, this will do the trick when it comes to thawing pipes.
How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing: Wrapping Up
We hope that this post has helped you to better understand not only how to keep your pipes from freezing in the winter, but also how to recognize the potential signs of a problem.
While prevention is certainly the best cure when it comes to frozen pipes, sometimes, the cold temperatures get ahead of you.
When that happens, you need to know who to call.
That's where we come in.
We can help you to safely and completely thaw your frozen pipes. Additionally, we can perform routine heating, cooling, and electrical maintenance and inspections to ensure that everything in your home is ready for the winter.
And if you're dealing with a plumbing problem?
We can fix that, too.
Check out our services to learn more about what we have to offer, and get in touch with us when you're ready to schedule an appointment.