Every winter as the freeze deepens, we get tons of calls from customers whose plumbing has frozen solid. To help you avoid inconvenience and damage to your home, we’ve prepared an infographic that explains all about why plumbing freezes, how to prevent your pipes from freezing and what to do if the worst happens to you.
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Transcript: Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter
Every winter many homeowners experience frozen plumbing, and even burst pipes. Here’s how to avoid becoming one of them.
- 250,000 – The number of homes that experience frozen and/or burst pipes in the US.
- 11% – 20 % (or more) – The number of homeowner’s insurance claims are due to water damage and freezing.
- $7,307 – The average freezing and water damage insurance claim.
- -6 ° C to -15 ° C: When the temperature drops, pipes are more likely to freeze.
- 10%: The amount that water expands when it freezes.
Which Homes Are Most Vulnerable?
- Houses built before the 1960s, when insulation started improving.
- Houses with recent basement renovations to improve insulation. Why? Wasted heat prior to insulating kept exposed pipes warmer.
Do Pipes Always Burst When They Freeze?
No – usually the frozen area expands along the length of the pipe.
These Conditions Can Cause Bursting
- Bends in the pipe: can trap the expansion of the frozen area.
- Old pipes: where buildup of debris inside the pipe is more likely to have happened over time.
Lay the Groundwork
- Insulate any pipes that are in colder areas of your home with foam.
- Heater tape (between pipe and foam) or heater cables may also be needed.
- Seal any insulation gaps near plumbing.
- Re-route any pipes that are exposed to the cold.
- Replace plumbing that is old and clog-prone.
- Turn off any valves for your outdoor water supply. Then empty the tap and shut it securely.
- Make sure you get your heating system checked in the fall to help prevent breakdowns.
When Winter Hits
- Allow warm air to circulate to cold zones in your home if plumbing is vulnerable in that area. This includes opening cabinets under sinks.
- During severe cold, you may want to set your heating system to maintain a warmer temperature overnight.
- If you’re going on a winter vacation, ask your house sitter to check all taps and toilets for water flow. Also:
- Keep your heat set to a normal temperature.
- Consider shutting the main water valve to your home and draining the plumbing by opening all of your taps until no more water escapes.
- Turn off your hot water tank.
If You Lose Heat/Power
- Opening taps to allow water to drip can prevent a freeze up during loss of heating. While this wastes water, a flood will waste more.
- If water is no longer coming in to your house, close the main water valve to your home and drain your plumbing by opening all of your taps.
What if My Plumbing Freezes?
If the water flow suddenly stops and the weather is cold, your plumbing may be. A freeze can be confined to some pipes, but leaving others working.
Check to see if the pipes are just frozen or if they have burst. If there’s a burst, the flooding won’t happen until it thaws.
Don’t Use Your Toilet
… Unless you’re sure the water supply to the toilet is working. Use a neighbour’s bathroom or move out temporarily.
Shut Down Your Water Supply
You should make sure you know where your main water supply shut off valve is, and test it to make sure it is working.
If the worst happens, use it to prevent flooding damage.
DIY Thawing Tips
For small freezes, a good hair dryer or space heater may work. Don’t leave these unattended, as they could start a fire. Do not use an open flame.
Call a Professional Plumber
If you can’t thaw the pipe yourself or you can see that the pipe has burst, you may need professional help. A plumber can use an electric charge to instantly thaw the pipe.