How Can I Help Keep My Home’s Pipes From Freezing?

How Can I Help Keep My Home’s Pipes From Freezing?

How Can I Help Keep My Home’s Pipes From Freezing?

Outdoor water pipes need protection especially before the first hard freeze — when the temperature drops to 28 degrees or lower for a few hours. The danger point for indoor pipes is estimated at around 20 degrees, but that varies depending on whether the pipes are in less insulated areas or inside exterior walls.  

These pointers from the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety and other experts can help you protect your pipes from freezing temperatures: 

  • Insulate your pipes. Use special insulating tape or tube-shaped foam sleeves to protect all accessible pipes, particularly in places where pipes are most vulnerable to the cold, including basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages and inside cabinets on exterior walls.

  • Seal and insulate your home. The idea is to keep all areas, even ones you don’t think about, warm enough that the pipes can’t freeze.
    • Block gaps and cracks with caulking, weather stripping, caulk rope or expanding foam. Gaps where pipes run through walls, around windows and door frames, where the roofline meets the attic and where the foundation meets the house are especially vulnerable.

    • Check attic insulation to make sure it’s adequate — generally, with an insulating value of around R-38 in southern climates and R-49 in northern areas. 
  • Leave the heat on. Leave the thermostat set at 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) or higher, even when you are not home. The right temperature for your home will depend on your climate and insulation. 

  • Open at least one tap to drip. A slow, steady drip, ideally from the faucet that’s farthest from your main water shut-off valve, can relieve the pipe-bursting pressure that an ice blockage causes.

  • Leave cabinets open. Where pipes run inside cabinets on exterior walls — think kitchens and bathrooms — open cabinet doors to let in warm house air.

  • Drain outdoor pipes and turn off outdoor water. Locate the shutoff valve to pipes leading outside to hoses, garden faucets and the irrigation system. Typically, it’s in the basement. Turn it off and leave the outdoor faucets open.

  • Consider a leak detector. Installing a leak detector and automatic shutoff switch on your main water line can’t prevent pipes from freezing, but it can alert you to any unusual water flow and help minimize damage.

  • Think about backup power. A backup power source — usually a generator — can help you keep your home heated in a winter storm power outage.

What should you do if your pipes freeze?

At the first sign of frozen pipes — when water stops coming through the taps — turn off the main water shut-off valve. A plumber can help repair damage and offer advice on further prevention.

Here’s why it’s important to protect pipes against freezing: Water freezing in your pipes will expand and can cause your pipes to crack or burst, potentially flooding your home. Even a small crack can release a damaging amount of water. Fixing burst pipes and cleaning up the water damage can be costly: the average homeowner claim for water damage and freezing runs around $11,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  

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