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Plumbing Tips: How to Prevent Frozen Pipes, with How-To Videos

Updated on March 3, 2011

prevent emergency plumbing repair with these plumbing tips

Interested in some important plumbing tips? If you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing in the winter, there’s always the potential for your water lines to freeze. If this happens without your knowledge, the pipes could easily burst, resulting in an emergency plumbing situation. Not only will you have to hire a plumber or plumbing services, you’ll be faced with having to remove the water – possibly hundreds or thousands of gallons. By thinking and planning ahead, however, you can prevent frozen pipes and avoid an expensive plumbing repair. It’s best to do this months before the winter season begins.

lnside plumbing tips

In a very hard freeze, even indoor pipes can become frozen, possibly resulting in a costly plumbing repair by a professional plumber. Plumbing services don’t come cheap. The pipes most susceptible to freezing are the ones in exterior walls, unheated basements, crawlspaces, and unheated attic space. One set of indoor pipes that are often overlooked are the exposed pipes under the kitchen or bathroom sinks. A good way to prevent these pipes from freezing is to leave the doors open to the cabinet hiding the pipes. This will allow the room heat to keep the pipes warmer. If your kitchen pipes are prone to freezing, you can leave the cabinet doors open and aim a space heater or heat lamp on the exposed pipes to keep them from getting too cold.

It’s also wise to leave all the taps dripping if a hard freeze is expected. This won’t positively guarantee that the pipes won’t freeze, but it will greatly lessen the chance. Moving water takes much colder temperatures to freeze than does standing water.

If your walls and ceilings aren’t adequately insulated, pipes there could easily freeze. In addition, you’re losing a lot of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. By adding insulation, you’ll lower your energy bills and help prevent frozen pipes in the winter. It’s a win-win situation. The cost will more than pay for itself in just a few years.

If you’re not going to be in the home long, you might not want to go to the trouble and cost of adding insulation to walls and ceilings. If that’s the case, at least insulate any pipes in uninsulated exterior walls and ceilings. Use pipe insulation that has a split in it. The kind with self-sealing seams is the best and the easiest to use. This type of pipe insulation can be easily cut to fit your pipes. Before purchasing pipe insulation, measure the diameter of your pipes to make sure you buy the right size pipe insulation.

Outdoor plumbing tips

Outdoor pipes, of course, are much more susceptible to freezing than are indoor pipes. Don’t forget the outdoor faucets, either. To protect your outdoor faucets, use a Styrofoam faucet cover or hood especially made for this purpose. Leaving the water dripping will also help.

For the pipes themselves, use pipe wrap. As with the pipe insulation mentioned above, make sure you buy the right size for your pipes. Where the sections of pipe insulation join, use duct tape.

If you have a small section of exposed outdoor pipe, you might consider housing it in a small box or wooden cover. Just make sure the box is adequately insulated.

If your area experiences frequent very cold temperatures, heating cable is a good idea. This is a wire that wraps around your pipe or pipes, and when it’s plugged in, the wires heat up and keep your pipes at a safe temperature. Most heating cables include a thermostat to ensure that a consistent heat is maintained.

Plumbing tips for other pipes and water lines

If you have garden hoses, uncouple them from your outdoor faucets and completely drain them of water. Once they’re dry, store them in a storage building, in your basement, or in your attic. They’ll be ready to use again next spring.

If you have a camper or RV with water lines, drain the lines, along with any holding tanks, before cold weather arrives. Insulate the pipes, too, to prevent any damage from freezing temperatures.

An ounce of prevention…

As with most things, the old adage is true for frozen pipes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’ve never experienced the kind of emergency plumbing that comes with ruptured pipes, you don’t realize what a mess they can create. You’ll have to call a plumber, and if it’s not during regular business hours, you’ll likely have to pay extra for emergency plumbing services. Of course, if you’re handy, you might be able to do a simple plumbing repair on your own, but why chance it? Avoid emergency plumbing disasters by being adequately prepared and following these plumbing tips!


Prevent emergency plumbing repair!
Prevent emergency plumbing repair!

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