Preventing Frozen Pipes

Preventing frozen pipes is crucial for avoiding flooding in your home or business. Understanding how pipes freeze is the first step in protecting your property from water damage.

Generally, pipes in colder climates are protected in the home by insulation, but there are still risks. When extremely cold weather hits, pipes are subjected to freezing, and older buildings can have holes that allow the flow of sub-freezing air to enter and cause damage. Homes in warm weather climates are particularly vulnerable to cold weather spells. For example, in the last month regions such as the carolinas have experienced 30 degree and colder weather along with ice storms, causing freezing and bursting pipes because those homes do not always have pipes protected by insulation. Additionally, wind chill can play a roll in freezing and bursting pipes–the same phenomenon that causes us to feel colder in windy weather can actually speed up the process of ice blockage, causing bursting and flooding.

Examples of areas in the home that can allow cold air to flow in are where telephone lines and television cables enter the home, where the air conditioner is located, and cracks in the attic walls.

Tips and Safety Precautions:

1. Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. This will damage the pipe and could cause a fire. Use towels soaked in warm water instead.

2. Seal any cracks in the walls of your home with caulk.

3. Leave cabinet doors open in cold weather. This allows heat to reach the pipes in your home.

4. Locate the main water valve in your home so that you can shut it off should there be a bursted pipe. This can prevent additional water damage.

5. Check your home (particularly the basement or attic) for broken window panes and fix them. A small crack can cause frozen pipes and lead to bursting.

6. Check out your dryer vent on the outside of your home. If it is clogged with snow and ice, clear it.

7. Stay up-to-date on new building codes. From the Institute of Business and Home Safety:

Most building codes now require homes to have adequate protection for pipes, but many plumbing installers are either not aware of the requirements, or simply disregard them. Additionally, many houses were built before the codes required such protection, and thus remain vulnerable. 

Inspect your home or business to make sure your pipes are properly insulated. If you experience frozen pipes, bursting, or water damage, turn off your main water valve and locate a professional in your area to assess the damage, repair the damage,  locate the original source of the problem and fix it.