This past Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early Spring. But not so fast! Meteorologists still expect the remaining days of this Winter to be marked with record-cold weather across the country, and with those temperatures comes a major threat to your home: frozen pipes.
Your home’s pipes are filled with pressurized water and like any other water, it can freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That ice expands and what you get if it expands beyond the strength of your pipes are cracks, leaks and sometimes a flood.
When a pipe bursts it can quickly fill your home with water and ruin flooring, carpeting, drywall, cabinetry, furniture, draperies, electronics and family heirlooms – not to mention the damage associated with mold. According to the Insurance Information Network of California, a standard damage claim of $50,000 from a broken pipe is fairly common. Frozen and broken water pipes are second only to hurricanes and as the costliest home disaster in the United States – both in terms of the number of homes damaged and their cost to individual homeowners, according to the IINC.
Before this winter is over, especially if you plan to travel away from home, here are a few tips to protect your pipes.
Keep Your Home Warm
It probably goes without saying but the best line of defense against a frozen pipe is a warm home. That’s easy to do when your at home but when your away at work keep the thermostat set at least 55 degrees . If you plan to be away for a stretch of time during cold months, have someone regularly visit to run water and make sure the home is staying warm enough to prevent freezing.
Consider Your Home’s Age
Modern home construction is designed to protect the plumbing from freezing, says Richard Beard, associate professor at the Utah State University School of Applied Sciences. “This is done by a combination of the central heating of the home, insulation characteristics of the home’s exterior walls, and the locations selected and protection provided for the pressurized water pipes within the home,” says Beard. If a you have an older home or an addition/modification made to your home’s original plumbing system, your plumbing may be more susceptible to freezing temperatures and damage.
Prep Your Pipes
The goal is to keep your pipes’ temperature above freezing. IINC has handy tips that start with shutting off your home’s water supply if you plan to be away for some time. After shutting it off, run your faucets (indoor and outdoor) to drain any water from pipes that could potentially freeze. You can also insulate all exposed pipes located in your basement, under your home, on outside walls or in attics with electric heating cables available for as little as $35 from Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware and Home Depot.
Drip Your Faucet
Finally, Beard says the old trick of dripping your faucets does, in fact, work. It is not the preferred method, he says. It’ll add cost to your water bill and it’s the most “water-wise” option but can be effective if there’s no other way to keep your pipes warm. Beard says remember to let the water drip from both the hot and cold water faucets. Again, the water flow must be sufficient to prevent freezing because if the temperature is low enough, even flowing water will freeze.
Photo Courtesy, BryanAlexander.