As winter hits the Hudson Valley, a sustained dip in temperatures increases the risk of frozen pipes and the potential damage that accompanies them. Even a crack 1/8th of an inch can leak as much as 250 gallons of water a day! Water damage from broken or cracked plumbing can lead to flooding, structural damage and mold infestation. The damage can be extensive – and expensive – to fix.
The best thing, of course, is to avoid having your pipes freeze in the first place. Here are some tips to prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Pipes that are most susceptible to freezing are those that are located in unprotected or unheated areas. If you have any pipes in an unheated basement, crawlspace, exterior walls, and unheated attics, you can wrap them to help insulate them from the cold.
- Use calk or spray insulation to close up any holes or gaps that may allow cold air to penetrate exposed areas with pipes. (Proper insulation not only protects your plumbing but helps save money on your energy bills!).
- Exposed piping under your kitchen and bathrooms sinks is particularly vulnerable to freezing. When the temperatures drop, open the cabinets to allow warm air to circulate through that area.
- Letting the faucet slowing drip can help prevent bursting by relieving water pressure. Moving water requires a lower temperature to freeze than water that is standing in a pipe.
- Disconnect any garden hoses and turn off the water supply to any outdoor faucets. Outdoor faucets should also be properly winterized. Outdoor faucet covers can help insulate them against the cold and wind.
- Use heat blankets, insulation sleeves or foam to insulate the outermost pipes in your home. You should be able to find all the necessary materials at your local hardware store. Take special care to insulate pipes in your attic, unfinished parts of your basement, garage and other non-insulated areas.
- If you leave your home for an extended period, set your thermostat no lower than 55F.
- In the event of a long-term power outage, you want to turn off your main water supply and drain the water from your faucets. This will help prevent damage if water freezes in the pipes.
Even with precautions in place, you should routinely inspect your indoor and outdoor plumbing. You can easily tell that a pipe is frozen if no water comes from an open faucet. Frozen pipes can also be detected visually. If you see frost or ice on a pipe, or it appears to be bulging or has small fissures in it, the likelihood that it will burst is high. Frozen pipes must be thawed as soon as possible.
A little bit of prevention and maintenance is critical for protecting your home from one of the worst winter plumbing disasters.