Frozen pipes aren’t typically something most Californians ever need to worry about. Even in the Sacramento area, the temperature only rarely drops below freezing. However, in the more mountainous areas to the east, frozen pipes can definitely be a concern since the temperature can occasionally go below zero. Your pipes can freeze any time it is colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the chances of this happening greatly increase the colder it gets. Once the temperature begins to approach 0 degrees, it could take just a few minutes for your pipes to freeze if they’re not properly protected. With this in mind, let’s look at the ways you can prevent your pipes from freezing and also what to do if they freeze.
How to Deal With a Frozen Pipe
Frozen pipes are at a huge risk of bursting. As the water begins to freeze into ice, it expands. This expansion can quickly cause copper pipes to burst as they are unable to handle the increased pressure. For this reason, it is essential that you carefully monitor your plumbing during any cold snap.
You can usually tell quite easily when a pipe begins to freeze as your water pressure and flow rate will decrease. If you notice this issue, it is vital that you immediately take steps to thaw the pipe out before it ruptures. The very first thing to do is close your main water shut-off valve. This will prevent your home from getting flooded if the pipe does burst.
It is important that you don’t attempt to thaw the pipe out too quickly, as this could also damage it. This means no open flames and especially no blow torches. Instead, you should use a hair dryer or possibly an electric space heater to slowly thaw out the pipe. Alternatively, you can wrap the pipe with an electric heating blanket.
The only issue is that it is usually quite difficult to determine which pipes are frozen. For this reason, it is always best to instead call a professional plumber if you suspect you have a frozen pipe. If only your kitchen or bathroom sink is affected, this indicates the pipes under the cabinet are frozen. However, there are often situations where a branch inside one of the walls will freeze and affect multiple fixtures. In this case, you will first need to determine where the frozen pipe is and then how best to access it. This is why it is always best to leave frozen pipe issues to the professionals.
Why You Should Always Keep Your Heat to at Least 60 Degrees
Most homes have lots of small leaks from their windows, doors, foundation, and throughout the rest of the structure. During the winter, these leaks can allow lots of cold air to get inside your walls and possibly cause your pipes to freeze up. Even if the temperature at your thermostat registers 50 degrees, that cold air seeping in can cause the water flowing through your pipes to drop well below freezing. In extremely cold weather, it isn’t uncommon for the temperature inside exterior walls to be 20 or 30 degrees cooler than the temperature in the rest of the home. To prevent this issue from causing your pipes to freeze, it is recommended to never let the temperature at your thermostat drop below 55 degrees. The easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to always keep your heating set to at least 60 degrees.
Preventing Air Leaks
The other thing you should do to make sure your pipes can’t freeze is to seal up any air leaks. Go around the outside of your house and look for any cracks in the foundation or gaps in your siding. If your home has a crawlspace, you’ll also want to look inside for any light shining through cracks and feel around for any drafts. If you see any cracks, make sure to seal them well with caulk or silicone so no air can leak through. If there are any larger cracks, you’ll want to hire a professional to seal them.
You should also feel around your windows or doors to see if there is any cold air leaking in. In addition, inspect the caulking inside and out and make sure the weather stripping isn’t cracked or missing. If you do feel any drafts, you should cut away all of the old sealant and re-caulk around the entire window or door frame inside and out. Similarly, you’ll want to replace any weather stripping that is old or damaged.
If your home still has any old, single-pane windows, you should consider having them replaced since they are poorly insulated and prone to air leaks. The other option is to use a plastic window kit to fully seal around the inside of the window. This traps a layer of air between the plastic and the window to prevent cold from seeping in.
Protecting Outdoor Pipes From Freezing
The pipes inside your home are typically unlikely to freeze unless it gets really cold. However, your outdoor pipes and plumbing fixtures can easily freeze even when nighttime temperatures are in the upper 20s to low 30s. This is why you should always make sure to have your sprinkler or irrigation system winterized each fall before the first freeze. This is done by shutting off the water to the system and then using a powerful air compressor to blow all of the water out of the lines.
A frozen hose bib can be an especially big problem since it can cause the pipe inside your home that feeds it to freeze and burst. If this happens, you could wake up to find your entire basement or crawlspace completely flooded. The only way to prevent this from possibly happening is to shut off the water to all hose bibs and then turn each one on to make sure that the water lines are completely drained. You also need to unhook all hoses as these can trap cold air inside and make it more likely for the hose bib to freeze. You may also want to consider covering each one with an insulating faucet cover for added protection.
If you have any outdoor faucets or sinks, you should also make sure to shut the water off and drain them as well whenever a cold snap is predicted. In addition, any copper water lines that run outside above ground need to be fully covered in insulation. When wrapping your pipes with insulation, make sure that you don’t leave any gaps and that you use tape or zip ties to secure the insulation in place.
Your Home Services Experts
If you’re dealing with a frozen pipe or looking for ways to prevent your plumbing from freezing, Huft Home Services is here to help. Our professional plumbers specialize in leak detection and repairs, as well as drain cleaning and sewer services. We also install water heaters, water softeners, and other plumbing appliances. Our team also consists of certified HVAC technicians and licensed electricians who can take care of any of your heating, cooling, or electrical repair, installation, and maintenance needs. We have locations in Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Yuba City and serve residents throughout all of the surrounding counties. For more information or to schedule any home service, give us a call today.