Cold temperatures can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and is a serious water damage risk during winter weather. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, claim payments by all insurance companies in the past decade for those kinds of losses have exceeded $4 billion. When the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 degrees Celsius), water pipes in homes with little or no insulation are likely to freeze and break. In fact, a one-eighth inch (3-millimeter) crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water per day, destroying floors, furniture, appliances and personal items, according to IBHS.
How a Pipe Freezes:
When water is colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius, it freezes into ice. When water freezes, it expands up to nine percent more than it did when it was water. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on metal or plastic pipes causing pipes to burst and water to leak.
Tips to Remember to Prevent Frozen Pipes:
- Know your home/business and popular locations where frozen pipes occur. Check around your home or business for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Wrap exposed pipes with foam, insulated materials or pipe heating cables. Watch these locations on a daily basis when temperatures is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you are going out of town, and you suspect that temperatures will drop, turn off the water to your home and open all of the taps to drain the water system. Set your temperature no lower than 55° F.
- Unhook the water hoses from the exterior of the home and bring them inside, to maintain their life.
- Drip your faucets, to reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes during an arctic blast weather advisory.
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst
- Open cabinet doors when temperatures are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm air can circulate around the pipes and prevent the water from freezing.
Popular Locations of Frozen Pipes:
- Outside wall
- Under a sink
- Unheated crawlspace or basement
- Outside water spigot
- Swimming pool supply lines
- Water sprinkler lines
Frozen Pipe Prevention Tools:
- FreezeAlarm Sensor. A sensor can protect your home in temperature sensitive areas. It can call you if the temperature gets out of range, power goes out or back-up battery needs replacing. It can also call you and give you a voice warning of what the actual problem is.
- Thinsulate Outdoor Spigot Faucet. These insulate outside spigots to stop frozen water pipes.
- Pipe heating Cable can warm pipes up to a certain degree to prevent water damage.
Tips on Thawing Frozen Pipes:
- If a pipe bursts before it is thawed, immediately shut off the water at the water main to prevent further damage!
- Frozen but not ruptured? If you turn on the faucet and the water doesn’t come out or comes out in a trickle, your pipes are probably frozen. You need to act quickly to thaw the frozen pipe before it bursts.
- Identify the frozen water supply pipe.
- Open a faucet supplied by the frozen line, even if you have not found the frozen spot.
- To find the blockage, follow the pipe back from the faucet to where it runs through cold areas such as an exterior wall, unheated crawl space or in some cases an unheated basement if the pipe is near an outside wall.
- Often the frozen area of the pipe will be frosted or have ice on it. If the situation is getting critical the pipe may be slightly bulged or look slightly fissured.
Frozen Pipe Behind a Wall:
- Leave the main water valve near your water meter open when thawing the pipe.
- If the frozen pipe is behind a wall or ceiling, you’ve got a challenge on your hands. You have three choices:
- Turn up the heat in the house and wait.
- Use an infrared lamp or lamps to heat the wall where you think the frozen area is located. Infrared lamps are better than regular heat lamps because the heat passes through the air without heating it, directing more energy to warming the wall and frozen pipe.
- Tear out part of the wall or ceiling to get at the frozen section of pipe. Then thaw the pipe as an exposed pipe.
If Your Pipes Burst…
- Turn off the water supply. Locate your water shut off valve and turn off the main water shut-off valve. You should find this in the basement or where the service pipe enters your home. Drain the system by turning on all your cold water valves.
- Call us to repair the damage: ServiceMaster DSI – 800-954-9444. We have staff on call 24/7/365. We will professionally clean and dry your home. Note: You might need a reputable plumber to repair the burst or frozen pipe. We can help with that also.
What You Can Do to Manage the Damage (until we get there):
- Water Buckets. If you notice the leak quickly you can catch dripping water in buckets.
- Make a hole in the ceiling to let water out.
- Turn off electronics/appliances
- Open Drawers, closets and cabinet doors to in enhance drying.
If you have noticed any signs of water or frozen pipe damage, call 800-954-9444 for flood cleanup right away. Mold can form quickly if this is not cleaned up immediately. ServiceMaster DSI crews are standing by.