Plumbing Tips for Freezing Weather: Prevention and Fixing Frozen Pipes

Brrr, it is cold! Winter has arrived and with it comes the dreaded task of preventing pipes from freezing. Burst pipes can cause thousands of dollars in damage and hours, if not days, of inconvenience.

But fear not! With a few simple steps, you can keep your plumbing system working properly even in the coldest temperatures. In this blog post, we will outline some practical plumbing tips for freezing weather, how to avoid frozen pipes and ensure a cozy winter season without any unexpected surprises. Let’s get started!

Frozen pipes
(photo: pixabay)

Plumbing Tips for Freezing Weather: Factors to Take Into Account

We all know that when water freezes, it becomes solid and expands. This can cause all sorts of problems for your plumbing and water heating system, including pipe cracking and bursting, leaking and property damages.

If you live in an area where the temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, it’s important to take steps to protect your plumbing.

This is especially important for the unheated house, garage, cabins, cottage, and in any cold area that is exposed to subzero temperatures.

In this article:

How to Keep Pipes From Freezing in Cold Weather

Preventing or protecting pipes from freezing is important to avoid damage to your plumbing system and costly repairs.

Here are some useful plumbing tips for freezing weather:

  • Insulate pipes: Insulating your pipes in unheated areas of your home is one of the most effective ways to prevent them from freezing. You can use foam insulation sleeves or wrap them with heating tape.
  • Seal drafts: Inspect your home for any drafts and seal them to prevent cold air from entering your home. This will help maintain a consistent temperature throughout your home.
  • Maintain a consistent temperature: Keep your home heated to a consistent temperature, and make sure that the temperature is not allowed to drop below freezing. If you plan to be away from home for some time, set your thermostat to at least 55 F.
  • Allow faucets to drip: Allowing your faucets to drip slowly can help prevent frozen pipes by keeping water flowing through them. A steady drip can help prevent the pressure buildup that can cause pipes to burst.
  • Add extra heat: Consider using a space heater or a heating tape to keep pipes warm in areas that are particularly vulnerable to freezing, such as basements or garages. You can also allow warm air from another room to circulate around the plumbing.

Which Type of Plumbing Pipes Is Best for Freezing Weather

When it comes to selecting plumbing pipes for chilly weather, there are a few options that are better suited for cold temperatures than others. Here we compare the most used types:

  • PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene): PEX pipes are highly resistant to freezing and can expand up to three times their size without cracking or bursting. They are also more flexible than other types of pipes, making them easier to install in tight spaces.
  • Copper: Copper pipes are also a good option for very low temperatures, as they can withstand freezing temperatures without cracking or bursting. They are more susceptible to freezing and bursting than PEX pipes because they are more rigid and less able to expand when water freezes inside them. Additionally, copper pipes are also more prone to corrosion, which can weaken them over time.
  • CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride): CPVC pipes are a durable and cost-effective option for cold weather. They are also resistant to corrosion and chemicals, making them a popular choice for plumbing systems.
  • Galvanized steel: Galvanized steel pipes are a strong and durable option for cold weather, but they can be more susceptible to corrosion over time. Also, they are more rigid and less able to expand than plastic pipes like PEX and CPVC, making them more susceptible to damage from freezing water. Generally, they are not recommended for use in cold weather climates

It’s important to note that even the most durable pipes can still be damaged by subzero temperatures. Their resistance depends on the quality and thickness of the pipes, as well as the level of insulation around the pipes.

RelatedCompare PEX vs. copper

At What Temperatures Can Pipes Freeze?

Pipes can start to freeze when the surrounding temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

However, the exact temperature at which pipes freeze can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of pipes, their location, and how well they are insulated.

For example, pipes located in unheated areas of the home and near exterior walls, such as the attic or crawl space, are more susceptible to freezing than those situated in heated rooms.

Garages are often not heated and may have exposed plumbing pipes, which can make them more vulnerable to freezing. Additionally, if the garage is poorly insulated, it may allow cold air to seep in and make the temperature inside even colder.

Common Signs of Frozen Pipes in House

Here are some common signs that your pipes may be frozen:

  • Little or no water flow: If you turn on a faucet and only a small trickle of water comes out or no water flows at all, it’s possible that the pipes leading to that faucet are frozen.
  • Strange sounds: If you hear strange sounds coming from your pipes, such as clanking or banging, it may be due to the pressure building up behind a blockage caused by frozen water.
  • Frost on pipes: If you can see frost on exposed pipes, it’s a good indication that the pipes are frozen.
  • Unpleasant odors: A blocked pipe caused by icy water may cause unpleasant odors.
  • Visible damage: If a pipe has burst due to freezing, you may see visible signs of damage, such as water stains on walls or ceilings, or even a visible crack or break in the pipe itself.

What to Do if Plumbing Freezes, and How to Thaw Frozen Pipes?

If you suspect that your plumbing has frozen, take the following steps:

  • Turn off the water supply: Shut off the main water valve to your home to prevent water from flowing through the frozen pipes.
  • Open faucets: Open all the faucets connected to the frozen pipes to allow water to flow out once the pipes thaw. This will also help relieve any pressure that may have built up in the pipes.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipes: You can use a space heater, hair dryer, heating pad, or towels soaked in hot water to thaw the frozen pipes. Do not use an open flame or propane torch to thaw the pipes, as this can damage pipes.
  • Call a plumber: If you’re not comfortable thawing the pipes yourself or if you’re unable to locate the frozen section of the pipe, it’s best to call a professional plumber to help.
  • Check for leaks: Once the pipes have thawed, check for any leaks in the plumbing system. If you find any, turn off the water supply again and call a plumber to repair the damage. For DIY repairs, check out the tools you need.

It’s important to address frozen pipes as soon as possible to avoid any further damage to your plumbing system and home property. 

Should I Drain My Plumbing Before Going on Vacation?

Draining your plumbing system for winter is especially important if you plan to be away from your home for an extended period or if your home will be vacant during the winter months.

You should drain your plumbing system for winter when the temperature drops below freezing, typically in late fall or early winter. It’s a good idea to drain your plumbing system before the first freeze to prevent any water from being trapped in the pipes.

It’s important to note that not all plumbing systems need to be drained for winter. If you live in an area with mild winters or have a well-insulated home, you may not need to drain your plumbing system.

Check out these plumbing tips for freezing weather before leaving:

  • Shut off the main water supply: Locate the main water shut-off valve and turn it off to stop the water flow to your home. This valve is typically located near the water meter or where the main water line enters your home.
  • Open all faucets: Open all the faucets in your home, including indoor and outdoor faucets, to allow the water to drain out of the pipes. Start with the highest faucet in your home and work your way down to the lowest faucet.
  • Drain the hot water heater: Turn off the power or gas to your hot water heater and attach a garden hose to the drain valve. Place the other end of the hose in a drain or outside. Open the valve and let the water drain out of the tank.
  • Drain other appliances: If you have other appliances that use water, such as a washing machine or dishwasher, refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to drain them properly.
  • Blow out the remaining water: Use an air compressor to blow out any remaining water from the pipes. Start with the highest faucet in your home and work your way down to the lowest faucet.
  • Add antifreeze (optional): If you have any pipes or appliances that can’t be drained completely, such as a sprinkler system or a dishwasher, you may want to add a small amount of antifreeze to prevent the remaining water from freezing.

By following these plumbing tips for freezing weather, you can help prevent your house pipes from freezing during the cold months. Remember to turn the main water supply back on when you’re ready to use your plumbing again.

Conclusion

Keeping your pipes from freezing in cold weather can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation and care, you can make sure that your plumbing remains in top shape all winter long.

By following these plumbing tips for freezing weather, as well as knowing when to call a professional plumber if necessary, you will have peace of mind knowing that your pipes are safe even when temperatures dip low. Don’t let frozen pipes ruin your winter – use these easy tips to stay ahead of the freeze!

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