Winter weather causes all sorts of problems, from wrecks to loss of work, to high electrical bills. On top of all that, you don’t want your water pipes freezing, too. It’s not bad enough to have your water pipes freeze up, but when they begin to thaw, they often rupture causing aggravation and extra expense. The best way to save a fortune on a plumber and new pipes is to never let it happen in the first place.
One sure-fire way to prevent pipes from freezing is to leave your water running on a cold night. When the predicted temperature reaches 32 degrees or below, let each faucet, hot and cold, drop slightly throughout the night. Of course, if temperatures will continue to stay below freezing for some time, you might want to consider other options.
Have you ever seen, in an old movie, a bum on a park bench, covered in newspapers? That’s because newspaper makes a great insulation. Because of this, you can wrap the pipes in at least a quarter-inch thick set of newspaper sheets, secure with masking tape or duct tape, and your pipes will stay warm – down to about 0 to10 degrees. Adding foil around the pipes helps keep them even warmer.
After wrapping the pipes in newspaper and tape, wrap the pipes once again with foil, then tape again, using duct tape. Don’t forget to wrap the pipes under the sink or any that run somewhere that the heat of the house cannot easily reach. The temperature can now drop to below zero and your water shouldn’t freeze, particularly if your home stays fairly warm. If you have an enclosed basement, your pipes are more unlikely to freeze, but wrap them anyway to prevent the possibility.
Hardware stores sell heating tape, which plugs into an outlet and wraps around the pipes. It’s really electrical wiring that warms up upon plugging it in, and keeps the water from freezing. The tape works well, but water can still freeze if the temperature drops really low. The tape does run your power bill up a little, but is worth it to prevent a visit from the plumber.
There are other insulators, like pipe sleeves, which work in a similar fashion. Heating the basement or crawlspace where most of your pipes are, is also extremely helpful in keeping your water running. The temperature in these areas only has to get to about 40 degrees to keep your pipes safe.
If your pipes have frozen, and you want to unthaw them without risking rupture, open the spout on the faucet that belongs to the frozen pipe. As the ice thaws, the pressure can escape through the open valve, usually preventing the bursting of the pipe.
To help thaw out pipes that are frozen, get the house warm, add an extra heater to the basement, wrap and begin using heat tape or pipe sleeves, and use a blow dryer to help thaw out small portions of pipes which are exposed to the weather.
During an ice storm that causes power outage, be prepared with a kerosene heater or a portable gas heater to keep the pipes from freezing until your electricity is functional again. Prevention is the key to keeping water running during the winter months, so take precautions to see that your pipes are securely wrapped and warm.