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Winter Is Frozen Pipe Season for Us at bluefrog
While drains are the source of many of our calls year-round, as winter approaches, we get an increasing number of plumbing service calls about pipes exposed to the cold. In most areas of the country, pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures at least once or twice per winter, and in some areas, it’s a sure thing for most of the season. We have a lot of solutions to prevent pipe and outdoor spigot damage, and of course, we’re ready to respond quickly with plumbing service if you find a burst pipe spraying water or still frozen solid and about to make a mess. Here are some ideas to get ready for winter.
These solutions keep the pipes warm, but at the cost of some energy use. They also require the homeowner’s attention if there’s a power failure since the protection for the pipes will fail as well. Unless there’s a thermostat involved, these heating solutions will keep operating and using electricity throughout the winter, not just when the temperature drops below freezing. They also might not address severe cold snaps such as the “polar vortex.” They may need to operate into the spring to address “little winters” and other cold snaps experienced in some regions.
Like an electric blanket for pipes, heat tape supplies warmth along the pipe using electricity supplied at one end. This can be especially helpful for pipe runs underneath the house or to outbuildings and garages. Ask your plumbing service provider about heat tape with a thermostat for use with plastic PVC plumbing.
Keeping Ambient Temperatures Up
If you open cabinets where pipes can freeze and allow warmer air in, or blow warm air into a room where pipes need protection using a nearby heated space, you can keep the ambient temperature from going low enough to freeze the pipes. In severe weather, heating devices such as space heaters can be used to keep the overall temperature up in the room.
Preventing Freezing by Maintaining Flow
When water is flowing, it is harder for it to freeze solid. It’s not impossible, though, and a deep enough temperature drop will gradually freeze the water inside the pipe until it stops, freezes solid, and bursts. These are a quick answer for frost warnings, though, and in areas where the occasional temperature dip is not too extreme.
Keep a Trickle Trickling
Open a valve that will allow a small flow of water to pass through the pipe at risk. Your plumbing service provider can make sure that you’ve got the right valve open. If you’ve ever watched a stream in winter, you’ll see how this works, as many streams freeze slowly from the banks but stay clear and flowing in the middle. The same happens with pipes, where they will stay clear with water flowing through them as long as the ice forming on the inside doesn’t close off the center flow. A faster flow could increase the protection but will waste more water.
Insulate and Isolate
While insulating hot water pipes can provide additional savings and a few degrees more warmth in your hot water, insulating pipes that carry water through cold areas can also help avoid freezing and bursting. Your plumbing service expert can help you map the areas that need insulation. Providing a cover for the pipes that contains insulation will perform the same job, but requires more labor to create and install.
Using special slide-on insulation to fit your pipes, you can quickly protect them against sudden changes in temperature that might lead to freezing the water they carry. Your plumbing service professional can guide you to identify which pipes should be covered and make sure no sections are exposed to the cold.
In some cases, the best solution may be to have your plumbing service provider reroute your pipes away from cold areas. One common problem is pipes passing near ventilation for a furnace room and getting exposed to cold air. By running the pipes away from the window, the potential for damage to the pipes and related flooding can be reduced or eliminated.
Outdoor Plumbing & Spigots
Don’t forget your sprinkler system, outdoor hose spigots, and other water access points outside. This is especially true if you’re in an area that has few cold snaps so the risk of freezing rarely comes to mind. If you’re used to shutting off your water in high-frost areas and draining the line, our plumbing service can provide new self-draining spigots that take care of the job for you and remain available year-round. We can also help with pools, water features, plumbing on patios, and lines that run to sheds and garages.
It Only Takes One Cold Snap to Damage Pipes
If a cold snap catches you off guard, for example if you’re enjoying a nice trip and not in tune with your local weather report, you can find that your pipes have unexpectedly burst and an unlimited amount of water is flowing, possibly into your basement, until you identify the problem. We recommend that you take preventive steps as soon as possible so that you don’t have to deal with this often-expensive source of damage and plumbing service costs. By the way, many home security systems offer water sensors, which won’t solve the problem but can help you respond quickly if it happens.
Call bluefrog for Burst Pipes and Preventive Care and Inspections
Our expert plumbers at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain provide a full plumbing service visits to prepare your home for cold weather. We’ll inspect for pipes that are at risk and recommend solutions that meet your needs. We’ll be glad to answer your questions about local climate patterns. If you do have a pipe freeze and burst, we’ll make an emergency visit to stop the flood and repair the pipe right away. Call us to schedule a visit or use our contact form for more information.