How would I prevent my pipes from freezing and bursting?
How would I prevent my pipes from freezing and bursting?
Wicked winter weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst, causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Taking preventive measures before winter sets in can reduce and eliminate the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats. The threat begins when the mercury drops down into the 20s Fahrenheit.
Pipes most at risk for freezing include:
- Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.*
- Pipes located in exterior walls.
- Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.
* Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.
If you’re going out of town for a few days or more, the best option is to locate your main water valve and turn your water COMPLETELY off. This way, If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe. You can try to drain the system after shutting off the main water supply opening all faucets and flushing all your toilets. The risk for pipes freezing and bursting becomes minimal and provides you peace of mind on your vacation.
If you’re not going anywhere for the winter and need to keep your water on, the rest of the blog pertains to you.
Dripping faucets is one of the main prevention methods. This keeps the water circulating and doesn’t give it a chance to build up in one spot and freeze.
Different Types of Insulation:
Pipe Insulation is thermal or acoustic insulation used on pipework. Pipe insulation can prevent condensation forming, as the surface temperature of the insulation will vary from the surface temperature of the pipe. Condensation will not occur, provided that (a) the insulation surface is above the dew point temperature of the air; and (b) the insulation incorporates some form of water-vapor barrier or retarder that prevents water vapor from passing through the insulation to form on the pipe surface. Two most popular to use on chilled water pipes are foam glass and rubber insulation.
-Foam Glass Insulation: Foam glass, lightweight, opaque glass material having a closed-cell structure. It is made in molds that are packed with crushed or granulated glass mixed with a chemical agent such as carbon or limestone. At the temperature at which the glass grains become soft enough to cohere, the agent gives off a gas that is entrapped in the glass and forms the closed-cell structure that remains after cooling. Foam glass is light enough to float in water and has been used as a substitute for cork, but its main uses are for thermal and sound insulation. It is impervious to moisture, most fumes, and vermin. *Keep the heat in with a rough-and-ready barrier built with foam board.
-Rubber Insulation: As a nitrile rubber material, Armaflex is entirely dust and fiber free, which protects your respiratory system by keeping the air you breathe nice and pure. Since the insulation itself acts as a vapor barrier the “wicking” effect is not possible. This means that a small puncture in the insulation surface results only in localized damage and not system wide failure reducing the risk of; condensation, mold growth and under insulation corrosion.
-Fiberglass Insulation: Glass fibers are useful thermal insulators because of their high ratio of surface area to weight. Fiberglass (or fibreglass) is a type of fiber reinforced plastic where the reinforcement fiber is specifically glass fiber. The glass fiber may be randomly arranged, flattened into a sheet (called a chopped strand mat), or woven into a fabric. Glass fiber when used as a thermal insulating material is specially manufactured with a bonding agent to trap many small air cells, resulting in the characteristically air-filled low-density “glass wool” family of products. Other common names for fiberglass are glass-reinforced plastic (GRP),\ glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP).
GRP and GRE pipe can be used in a variety of above- and below-ground systems, including those for:
- Desalination (process that removes minerals from saline)
- Water treatment
- Water distribution networks
- Chemical process plants
- Hot and Cold water
- Drinking water
- Wastewater/sewage, Municipal waste
- Natural gas, LPG
When you insulate your pipes and circulate the water you should run antifreeze (Propylene Glycol) through the pipes to coat the insides.
Another item homeowners should have on hand is a temporary patch kit (sold at home centers) to seal off burst pipes as they wait for favorable weather to make a permanent repair or to hire a plumber to sweat in a new length of pipe. “Above all,” Porzio says,” find out which local plumbers are equipped and ready to handle frozen pipes.” *
The heating bill, whether gas or electric, is the lesser of two evils when it comes to freezing and bursting pipes. You do not have to turn the heat on enough to make Turning up your thermostat will increase the air temperature in the crawlspace by projecting heat energy through the floor into the space. You can also install a heat trace cable to keep a cold pipe from freezing. The third heating option is to place a space heater.
Another tip for insulating pipes is to wrap them with duct tape for double the protection.
Beside insulating pipes from cold weather, or trying to use heat tape, a very effective way of protecting pipes from freezing is to introduce a circulating pump into the water system. By installing a circulation system, the water from the ‘hot’ side of the system gets sent to the ‘cold’ water line. This greatly reduces the possibility of water pipes freezing because the water temperature never reaches the critical freezing point.
Don’t forget about the outside of your house! A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. You can buy frost-proof spigots for your hose faucet that cost only a couple dollars. It also may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to forget so don’t forget to turn your sprinkler system off. Even though you’re not using your sprinkler system, you need to blow compressed air through the irrigation lines to drain any remaining water.
Constantly check your home for any possible leaks. Even after a pipe has frozen and/or thawed.
If your pipes have frozen, don’t lose hope! If you catch it quickly enough, there are methods to thaw the frozen pipes. Have a water cut-off key at your disposal and locate the water main cut-off valve. Open the faucet to remove pressure and any excess water. Then, apply heat via a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape or portable space heater starting at the interior end to the colder end.
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