Preventing Your Pipes from Freezing

November 9, 2017

Freezing pipes are a very real danger, no matter where you live. In fact, for those who live in warmer climates, the risk of freezing pipes may be even higher in the event that there is an unusual cold spell, since many people might be unprepared for the uncommon weather and their plumbing may be equally so. Regardless of where you live, as a property-owner you should remain conscious of changing weather and never forget these simple solutions to avoiding disaster.

Let’s start with a quick science lesson. Unlike most other liquids, when water freezes, it expands because of its molecular bond. In water, hydrogen atoms tend to form a line between oxygen atoms, but that shape can be more fluid with the effect of thermal energy to shake it out of place. However, when temperatures cool, that thermal energy drops and water molecules become more rigid, forcing a very open crystalline structure. As a result, the overall substance grows in size, a prospect that can prove problematic when contained within something that can’t expand with it.

There are few things you can do to prevent this explosive reaction without reintroducing thermal energy, or heat. Practically speaking, there are a number of ways to do this and only one you should definitely avoid.

Insulation

As mentioned before, many people might be surprised to learn that their plumbing is not insulated either as a result of improper installation or the impression that a need is not present for warmer climates. Not to worry! You can still do this yourself. You can purchase foam/rubber insulation to wrap around the pipes in your crawl spaces, basement, and of course under your bathroom and kitchen sinks. Where you can find exposed pipes, give them a little wrap.

Heat Tape

Insulation will help your pipes retain a warmer temperature, but for more of a proactive approach, try applying tape with heating properties to your exposed pipes. There are two options that you can choose from. The first type activates its heat when it senses that pipes have grown too cold. The second must be plugged in and unplugged when no longer required. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these products have safety precautions that you should follow to prevent fire danger.

Drip

Probably one of the easiest things you can do to help prevent your pipes from freezing is to keep the faucets on a constant drip. In addition to the expansion of water once it reaches freezing, pressure can build up in your pipes as a result of dropping temperatures. Opening that system with an activated faucet can reduce that pressure from building and save you a lot of money, despite a slightly higher water bill. You don’t need to turn the water on full-blast either! A little goes a long way.

Turn up the Heat

It’s probably no secret to you that turning the heat on within your property can prevent your pipes from freezing, but how warm should you make it? Similar to the previous tip, spending a little more on your utilities can save you a lot compared to the damage of your property through burst pipes. However, if you want to be a little more frugal about it, we recommend keeping the temperature in your home above 50 degrees to avoid any mess.

Open Cabinets

If you’ve followed the last tip, then the interior of your property will be warmer than the exterior (at least we hope so!). But behind the cabinet doors beneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, heat can get blocked out. To ensure that the heat reaches everywhere it’s meant to, open those cabinet doors and get those pipes exposed to the higher temperature. If you’ve got children or pets, make sure to take the time to remove any harmful cleaning products that might be stored down there too!

With these tips, you should be properly prepared for the coming winter months. However, you might recall that we mentioned at the beginning of this post that there is at least one method you should refrain from using when trying to prevent frozen pipes. That would be open flame. Don’t use open flame. Seriously.

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