At the top of the list of least-desirable phrases homeowners want to hear is: Frozen pipes. Not only are frozen pipes just plain inconvenient and a huge undertaking to repair and clean up, but they’re an expense that’s fairly easy to avoid — if you know how to prevent this problem.
Oddly enough, it’s not actually the ice itself in a pipe that leads to a break, but rather the increase in water pressure “downstream” from an ice blockage that will result in a busted pipe. This is why one easy way to prevent a break during cold weather is to leave your faucet dripping slightly; this way the pressure can’t build up between the ice blockage and the faucet.
Other preventive steps should include:
Making sure that your home retains its heat
If you have plumbing pipes in your basement and attic, and most homes do, they’re vulnerable to freezing because these spaces generally don’t receive as much heated air as the rest of the home. This problem can be exacerbated by air leaks in these areas, such ass through cracks or openings for electrical wiring or plumbing. Cold air flowing around pipes, especially if it’s carried on a breeze, can actually have a wind-chill effect on pipes, making them freeze all the quicker.
To remedy the problem, make sure you seal holes, cracks and openings, but also assess your options for adding insulation in unconditioned parts of your home.
Insulating plumbing pipes
In general, it’s safe to assume that your home’s plumbing pipes that are located in conditioned spaces within your home, or those spaces that receive heat, are safe. Your attention is better spent, therefore, on the pipes that are running through unconditioned spaces. Common unconditioned areas of a home are the basement, attic or exterior walls.
You have two insulation options:
- You can buy pipe insulation from your local home improvement store. Wrap the insulation around the pipes, leaving an overlay between applications, and adhere with foil tape.
- Alternatively, you can apply thermostatic tape to the pipes.
Don’t let conditions in your home lead to frozen pipes. Take some time this year to conduct a “prevention session” to do everything possible to avoid this costly nuisance. Contact Ernst Heating & Cooling, serving Metro-East homeowners since 1951, for help with this and other issues.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about preventing frozen pipes and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.