With temperatures dropping below freezing around the country, it’s important to be prepared for the cold weather’s effect on your water pipes.
Just one burst pipe running at 4-8 gallons/min can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage in a matter of minutes, according to WaterSignal, a green technology company focused on water conservation. The Alpharetta, GA-based company measures water flow in real-time to detect leaks and monitor domestic meters, irrigation systems, and cooling towers for commercial, multifamily, medical and educational properties.
As the water in your pipes begins to freeze, it expands, placing tremendous pressure on the pipe wall. Regardless of quality and strength, expanding water can cause pipes to break. The most common pipe freezes occur on those that are exposed to frigid temperatures such as outdoor hose bibs, and water supply lines in unheated interior areas like basements, crawlspaces, and even kitchen cabinets.
Before winter is in full swing, WaterSignal recommends the following steps to prevent pipe freezing:
- Locate all of your property’s shut off valves and make sure they work.
- Drain the water from swimming pool, sprinkler and hose bib supply lines.
- Identify any potential problems in areas where pipes may subject to severe cold (outdoor faucets, walls, ceiling, crawl spaces, windows, etc..). Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Seal any gaps around the property where cold air may penetrate and become in contact with piping. Even the tiniest opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
- Consider installing specific products such as insulating domes, pipe sleeves or UL listed heat tape to prevent freezing.
During days of extreme cold, take preventative action by:
- Opening cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Allowing cold water to drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature (no lower than 55° F) both during the day, and at night. You may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job from pipe freezing.
If your pipes freeze and you experience a “no flow” situation:
- Turn off the property’s main water valve and leave the faucets open until pipes thaw.
- Do not apply open flame, electronic heaters, or hair dryers directly to the piping. Patience and a warm environment are the best way to thaw pipes without causing damage.
- When turning the main water valve back on, have one person slowly turn the valve on while another person walks the property to be sure no water is leaking.
If water is flowing, immediately turn off the property’s main water valve and open faucets in the lowest part of the property, i.e. basement laundry sink.
Click here for an interactive checklist for getting your facility ready for winter, courtesy of WaterSense.