Avoid Frozen Pipe Disasters
A broken water line can be one of the most devastating disasters to happen in your home. Even at three gallons per minute, a crawl space can be filled from the time you go to bed, to the time you wake up in the morning. What can you do to prevent this and what should you do if you find yourself suddenly in this mess?
The first thing everyone should do is find their shut-off valve. This should be easily accessible, if not, have a plumber install one for you that is easy to find. There are automated valves and even valves that will turn off themselves if water is detected, which is your best first line of defense. A standard check list every year should be followed to make sure everything around your home is addressed such as; hoses removed from outside faucets and faucets covered, crawlspace check to protect pipes including pipe insulation. In extreme cold weather, you may want to consider heat lamps or heat tape to protect certain vulnerable pipes. If the home may be vacated for a time period with just the central heat on low, open the sink cabinet doors to allow heat to flow in those areas. If you’re not sure how much cold your pipes are experiencing in the crawl space, a fifteen-dollar remote thermometer can help you monitor what is happening in those areas.
If you think a pipe may be frozen, the first thing to do is inspect that pipe for a possible split or crack. If you see one, call your plumber immediately, you don’t want to un-thaw a broken pipe allowing the water to flow from the spit or crack. If the pipe seems to be in-tact, you can consider a heat tape, hair dryer or other heating devices, however, keep in mind that open flame can start the raw wood around your pipe to catch fire. Always look around the area being heated to look for possible fire dangers.
The common mistake is to presume a pipe will not freeze because it has not frozen in the past. The continuous freezing temperatures, over time, create the most problems. A pipe with water running through it may be fine, but as the cold penetrates the foundation and the surrounding structure, the ambient or continuous temperature around the pipe starts to build-up more affect. A pipe can even freeze for a short time and not fail, but as it is frozen over more and more time, the ice expands making a pipe that survived last year, fail this year.
It is so important to be pro-active, if you think you have a frozen pipe, get on the plumbers list because this time of year plumbers can be booked weeks out. Be ready to turn the main water off, water is a powerful force and a broken pipe is nearly impossible to plug. Check your pipes now before a faucet is not working, especially pipes that are on an outside wall. Water damage from a frozen pipe can be averted but it takes diligence.