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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Prevent Pipes from Freezing this Winter

(guest post by Sean Richardson)

As we get ready to head into the depths of Winter, the sub-zero temperatures are sure to follow. Cold weather can cause sections of your home plumbing to burst, leaving you without running water and potentially a massive repair bill.

Plumbing Expert Sean Richardson, CEO of Complete Plumbing Solutions has compiled his top tips on how to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter.

“We all know that when water freezes it expands greatly, this pressure can then cause your pipe to burst,” notes Richardson “A burst pipe can cost anywhere from $500 - $2000 to repair depending on the severity of the damage s so it’s advisable to take every precaution you can!”

1. Keep Water Running

The tiniest trickle can sometimes be enough to stop a devastating freeze.

“The weather forecasts are pretty good at forecasting when there’ll be a particularly harsh drop in temperatures so if you’re expecting a freeze turn your taps on and allow just a trickle to come through the pipes. We’re not saying do this with all of the taps in the house, but just the ones that are supplied by exposed pipes. The constant movement of the water through the pipes will go along to prevent freezing and also relieves any potential pressure buildup that could burst a pipe.”

2. Insulate Your Pipes

Pipe insulation is cheap, widely available and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

“A length of pipe insulation can be as cheap as $2, so it really is a no-brainer, you could have all of your pipes insulated for less than $100. We would always advise that you focus on the most vulnerable sections of your plumbing – the exterior pipes and the pipes located in the unheated areas of your home like the attic. If there’s cold weather on the way, and you haven’t had the time to insulate your pipes properly, you can DIY it too. Around 50-60 years ago, people used to wrap the pipes in old, bunched up newspapers and just secured it with duct tape! It may sound funny but it definitely does the job in a pinch.”

3. Keep The Heat On

With energy prices still on the rise, this may not seem like the most appealing option, however a small bump in your heating costs will still cost far less than the repair of a burst pipe.

“When the temperatures dip, we tend to blast the heat during the day and turn things down at night, but this isn’t helping your internal plumbing. Try to keep your heating at a more consistent temperature over the 24-hour period, as this will keep the pipes from freezing. Ideally, you should always be at least 54° Fahrenheit/12° Celsius.”

4. Keep Your Cabinets & Doors Open

A simple but effective measure to keep warm air circulating around your pipes.

“In most homes your plumbing in the kitchen or bathroom is tucked away behind a cabinet door of some sort. During a cold snap you should open up these doors to allow the warm air from inside the house to get around the pipes, keeping them free from blockages.”

5. Plug the Gaps

There are dozens of unhelpful cracks and openings throughout every home, so it's time to sort them out.

“Around this time of year in particular you should be checking around your doors and windows for any holes and large gaps that are letting all the warm air in your home escape and letting cold air in. Window sills in particular are a common leakage point, if you have any cabling running externally to internally, examine where it enters the home for gaps. By sealing these gaps you’re helping your overall home insulation, which in turn benefits the plumbing.”

My Pipes Are Already Frozen but Haven’t Burst! What Can I Do?

The good news is that you have a few options to avoid catastrophe –

“First things first, shut off the water at the mains. This is usually located either under the sink, basement, or somewhere near your water meter. If you allow the water to continue to flow, you could be making the situation worse by allowing the pressure to build, which would cause a break.”

How do I know the pipes are actually frozen?

“If the water is very slowly coming from a tap or stops completely, you’ve got a freeze. If the problem only exists with one tap, it’s a local issue rather than an a system-wide problem.”

How to Thaw a Pipe –

Hair Dryer“You can use a hair dryer to thaw the pipe slowly, applying heat up and down the affected length of pipe.”

Warm Towels –“Wrap a warm towel around the frozen pipe. This should free up the blockage and not shock the pipe too much. Put down a bucket or some other towels on the ground to catch the excesses. A Hot Water bottle would also work in this situation.”

My Pipes Have Burst – What Now?

It should go without saying, but time is of the essence. Repairs should always be left to a professional, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the damage.

“Turn off the Water Mains as soon as possible. The last thing you want to do is pull more water through the pipe, so remove the supply. Next step is to call a plumber and see how soon they can get out to see you. From here, try and get rid as much of the water as you possibly can, so as to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.”

Is there anything residents can do to fix a burst pipe in the interim before a plumber arrives?

“Yes, if you’ve got the right tools laying around. You’ll need a clamp, a block of wood and some rubber. You can place the rubber over the breakage in the pipe, cover it with a wood block and then use a clamp to keep everything together – we must stress, this is a very temporary fix and won’t last long. Similarly, you can purchase some pipe repair sleeves, which can just be slipped over the affected area and keeps the water in the pipe. Again, these won’t last long so don’t put off calling the professionals."

Editor's Note: Sean Richardson is a plumbing expert and CEO of Complete Plumbing Solutions. Visit the CPS website to learn more.

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