How to Prevent Pipes From Freezing

As the weather gets colder, homeowners start to fear the possibility of frozen pipes. Freezing and bursting pipes are expensive problems that can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Not only do your pipes sustain damage, but there is also the chance of serious flooding and extensive property damage. These dangers are why understanding how and why pipes freeze and what to do if they freeze is so important. Discover helpful tips for preventing frozen pipes below.

Why Do Pipes Freeze?

Although the temperature alert threshold for freezing pipes is 20°F in warmer locations like Southern states, pipes can still freeze at warmer temperatures. External pipes that are exposed to the elements have a greater chance of freezing. Wind chill also plays an essential role in the possible danger of your pipes freezing. Pay attention to both the actual temperature and the temperature with the wind chill, especially if you have pipes located where wind can get to them.

What Happens When Pipes Freeze?

If you’ve ever put a drink in the freezer only to come back and find that it burst everywhere, you have a good idea of why you don’t want your pipes freezing. As water freezes, it expands, exerting pressure on the container it is held in until it eventually breaks. On average, water supply pipes are 1 inch or smaller, putting them at an increased risk of bursting. 

Often, the frozen part of the pipe is not what breaks. Instead, most pipes burst farther down the line from the pressure that can’t be released due to the blockage. This factor is why frozen pipes don’t always burst.

How to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

Frozen pipes are a huge inconvenience and can be expensive to repair. Between replacing pipes and repairing any water damage that has occurred from flooding, the costs can quickly stack up. Fortunately, there are several easy-to-implement tips for preventing frozen pipes.

  1. Keep the garage doors closed: Keeping your garage entry door and main overhead door closed keeps the cold outdoor air out of your house. Doing this is even more important if water supply pipes run through the garage.
  2. Keep the heat on: Your instincts to save on your heating bill could lead you to pay more in the future. Even if you go out of town, keep your heat at 60°F or higher to prevent internal pipes from freezing. You should also try to maintain a constant temperature throughout the day. Many people turn their heat down at night to save money while they sleep. This practice is usually fine but should be avoided when the temperatures start getting dangerously low.
  3. Run the faucet: Much like the last tip, this probably goes against your instincts as a homeowner. However, allowing your faucet to drip ever so slightly helps relieve any pressure that might build up in the pipes, preventing any frozen pipes from bursting. If you’re worried about your water bill, the faucet doesn’t have to fully be running — a periodical drip is all that’s necessary.
  4. Keep room doors and cabinets open: By keeping interior doors open, you allow heat to move through the house, keeping all rooms equally warm. Pipes are usually located in cabinets, so it’s good to leave the doors open to let the heat get to them.
  5. Seal cracks where air can get in: You’ll want to seal any holes and gaps in your house where cold air can get in. Ideally, you should seal them from both sides. By keeping cold air from getting to your pipes, you decrease the risk of them freezing and avoid expensive repairs.
  6. Add additional insulation: There are foam, rubber and fiberglass sleeves on the market that can be fitted to pipes to add extra insulation. Using these solutions is a great idea for exposed pipes. Additionally, consider adding insulation to walls in rooms such as the basement and attic, which usually contain pipes but aren’t always properly insulated.

What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

One of the first indications that a pipe might be frozen is if you turn on a faucet and there is little to no water pressure. Another possible sign is weird smells coming from the drains and faucets. If either of these issues happens, check your pipes immediately. If there is any visible frost on them, those pipes are likely frozen. 

If flooding has occurred or you can see the pipe has burst, shut off the water at the main shutoff valve and contact licensed plumber to fix the issue. A burst pipe is not something you can tackle on your own, and it’s better to leave it up to the professionals.

However, if there are no signs that any of your pipes have burst, you still have time to reverse the frozen pipe problem yourself. First, you must locate the frozen section(s) of the pipe. This may be a little difficult if the pipes are located somewhere that’s hard to access. Then, turn on your faucet. As the ice plug in your pipe melts, running water will help thaw the rest of the ice, even if the water is cold

Once the faucet is on, apply heat to the frozen pipe. You can do this by using an electric hair blower, portable space heater, an electric heating pad or even hot towels. Avoid using any open flames on the pipes. Continue this process until the full water pressure has been restored. If you are having trouble with the process or can’t find the frozen section of the pipe, it’s time to get in touch with a licensed plumber for assistance.

Contact Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning for Frozen Pipe Repair

Don’t be left scrambling to take care of pipes after the temperature has already dropped. Start implementing the above tips right away and reduce the worry dealing with frozen pipes. However, even if you’re prepared, an unexpected cold snap can cause problems for your plumbing system.

If you run into any issues, Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help. With our always-free quotes, upfront pricing and one-year parts and performance guarantee, it’s no surprise that we’ve become a central PA favorite. As a 17-time winner of Harrisburg Magazine’s Simply the Best for Plumbing, HVAC, Electrical, and Quality, we’ll do the job right and ensure you’re in good hands. Don’t just take our word for it — check out our work and customer testimonials.

Contact Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning today for any of your plumbing needs.