Prepare Your Pipes for Winter

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Guardian Plumbing urges their customers and even their non-customers to prepare their pipes for winter. Though the company does like the business, it’s heartbreaking to see a homeowner disconcerted over burst pipes. More, they can be expensive to fix.

The problem is simple. Water expands as it freezes and this can cause pipes to crack. Exterior pipes or pipes in unheated places like basements, attics and garages tend to crack first. Metal pipes a well as PVC pipes can crack or burst. Pipes are kept under pressure to keep water flowing back and forth and after a while they can develop tiny holes and cracks anyway. Freezing may just be the last straw for a pipe that’s already weakened.

What a homeowner should do is insulate their vulnerable pipes in any place where they would be exposed to freezing cold. This includes the pipes under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, especially if they’re in a vacation home that’s not used for the winter. The pipes should be wrapped in a pipe sleeve or heat tape according to the instructions of their manufacturer. The below sink cabinet doors should also be kept open to allow warmer air to reach the pipes, but the garage door should be closed if there are exposed pipes in the garage. The thermostat in the house should be set no lower that 55 degrees.

If the winter is very, very cold, the faucet should be allowed to drip into the pipes exposed to the cold to keep them from freezing. Both the hot and cold valves should be turned on. If there’s only one lever that controls the water, the temperature the water should be lukewarm.

If all else fails and the pipe freezes anyway, the homeowner can open up the faucet that serves it and wrap the pipe in towels soaked in hot water. Or, they can use a hair dryer to thaw the pipe out. The homeowner should never resort to a blowtorch or any other sort of violent heat, no matter how long they believe the hair dryer or the hot towels are taking. Eventually, the pipe will thaw and water will flow.