Winter is the worst possible time to need an emergency plumber. Unfortunately, frozen pipes, and the damage they cause, are some of the most common reasons we get called to people’s homes this time of year. There are several steps you can take to ensure the safety and security of your home’s plumbing, and with winter already upon us, we recommend you get to it as soon as you can. Here’s expert insight from the plumbers at WM Buffington on how to avoid frozen pipes this winter.
The biggest threat of frozen pipes is the potential to cause your pipes to leak, burst, break, or rupture. This is not usually hazardous to humans or pets, but a major danger is the subsequent damage caused by flooding, as the build-up of water can be substantial and cause considerable damage to your home. This is certainly a plumbing emergency.
Flooding can damage personal belongings, stain furniture, disrupt flooring stability, and even lead to mold growth, which if you are not aware, can threaten your health and well-being. Understandably, water damage (especially when significant in scale, and when the weather is so poor outdoors) can be very distressful.
The obvious culprit of frozen pipes is cold weather. During periods of freezing temperatures, the water in exposed pipes freezes and expands, leading to a build-up of pressure and the eventual crack or full-on rupture of the pipe. When the ice thaws the water floods out.
Water damage incidents peak in the winter months due to freezing pipes, but they can occur all year round due to corroding pipes in older properties, poor installation of pipes and fixtures, incorrectly plumbed-in appliances, and radiator and boiler leaks.
Be proactive by preventing one of the biggest causes of water damage from occurring in the first place. Frozen pipes are completely avoidable!
If you think you have a frozen pipe, an emergency plumber might not be needed yet, so don’t panic! A few things to do right away to avoid a pipe from bursting is:
Unfortunately, any outdoor pipe can be at risk during icy weather, as are the ones that pass through any cold spots in the house – like lofts, basements, and cupboards that sit on external walls.
A common culprit (if you have a modern condensing boiler), is the plastic condensate pipe that comes directly out of your boiler.
Once you’ve been able to find which of your pipes are frozen, it is important that you thaw it out as soon as possible. A frozen pipe causes expansion, but warming it back up should melt the ice and reduce any pressure that it is currently enduring. Slowly pour warm water (never boiling) over the frozen pipe to help the ice melt.
Preventing pipes from freezing in the first place is certainly ideal. Here are some techniques to protect your pipes and avoid having to call an emergency plumber:
Many frozen pipes are caused by people leaving their homes for an extended duration wherein a substantial temperature drop occurs. If you’re going to be gone for a few days and you suspect harsh weather on the horizon, it’s best to keep the heat on. Yes, this may seem like a waste of money, but the cost to keep your home warm for a few days is far less than repairing significant damage when pipes burst.
If you’re going to be gone for a while, it might also be worth turning off the water supply to your home and draining any water tanks, pipes, and toilets to prevent them from having any water to freeze in the first place.
Pipes in unheated areas, especially the attic, garage, basement, or those fixed to the inside of external walls are especially prone to freezing - these should be appropriately protected using foam sleeving or insulation. Similarly, while all new water tanks should be insulated, older ones will benefit from insulating jackets or other solutions.
Regarding having exposed pipes in unheated areas, it is smart to open doors to these spaces so that warm air from the rest of the home circulates through and keeps the pipes from freezing.
There are several leak detection devices on the market that will automatically shut off the water supply and send an alert to your phone should it suspect a leak or freeze. Smart thermostats can also be used to remotely control the temperature of your home, even if you are away.
Water taps and the associated piping that are connected to the outside of your home are commonly at risk of freezing. Be sure to drain them before the start of cold weather and inspect them regularly.
Frozen pipes can be a costly and unpleasant difficulty for any homeowner to face. They can lead to burst pipes and cause significant damage to your home if left unattended. If you’re worried about your own home, whether you suspect pipes are freezing and leaking or if you want to get them checked just in case, don’t hesitate to contact the seasoned experts at WM Buffington. We offer emergency plumbing as well as preventative treatment services, so reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment.