Winter Weather and Frozen Water Pipes

NOTICE TO ALL HAVELOCK RESIDENTS:
It is the homeowners responsibility from the meter to the home.
Call a plumber if you have a pipe to break on the home side of the meter.
The city is responsible from the meter to the main. If there is an issue in that segment,
contact 252-670-0663

Cold temperatures can cause pipes to freeze. Many landlords are afraid they will get this call from a tenant during the winter months. There are, however, steps you can take to prevent this problem. Learn six tips to keep the pipes on your property from freezing.

The Facts About Frozen Pipes

Only A Cold Climate Problem?

This is not the case. Many mistakenly believe that frozen pipes are only an issue for those in typically cold climates.

However, the homes that are actually more vulnerable to frozen pipes are those in typically warmer climates because the pipes may not be properly insulated against such frigid temperatures.

Frozen Pipes Can Burst

Frozen pipes are a problem by themselves because they prevent water flow, but even worse, frozen pipes can eventually burst, causing damage and potential flooding. The good news is, there are six easy steps you can take to help prevent this problem from occurring when the temperatures drop.

Tip #1: Keep the Heat On

If you or your tenants are leaving for a period of time, make sure that the heat is kept on your property. It may be difficult to convince your tenants to leave their heat on when they are away, especially if they are responsible for paying their own utilities. You should inform them that the heat can help prevent pipes from freezing, and if pipes freeze and burst, it can cause a lot of water damage to the property and to their possessions.

The heat does not have to be kept as high as you normally would keep it if you were actually in the property, but keeping it set above 50 degrees Fahrenheit is a good idea. This should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and to prevent any water inside from freezing.

Tip #2: Allow Faucet to Drip

If you are afraid a pipe will freeze, you can allow the faucet to drip slightly.

Allowing the faucet to be open like this will relieve pressure in the system. If a pipe freezes, it is actually the pressure that is created between the blockage and the faucet that will cause the pipe to burst. Allowing the faucet to be open will prevent this pressure from building up and thus, keep the pipe from bursting.

Tip #3: Keep Interior Doors Open

Pipes are often located in cabinets. When the temperatures drop, it is a good idea to keep these cabinet doors open so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm as well. You should also keep all interior doors open so that the heat can flow throughout the home.

Tip #4: Seal Up Cracks and Holes

You should caulk any holes or cracks that exist near pipes. This should be done on both interior and exterior walls. Doing so can help keep the cold air out and the warm air in.

Tip #5: Apply Heating Tape

For pipes that are easily accessible, the electrical heating tape may be an option to keep them from freezing. This tape can be applied directly to the pipe.

There are two types of heating tape. One type of heating tape turns on and off by itself when it senses heat is needed. The other type of heating tape needs to be plugged in when heat is needed and unplugged when not in use.

Much like a space heater, these products can be dangerous, so you must follow the product’s direction and safety procedures exactly.

Tip #6: Add Extra Insulation

Pipes that are located in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation to keep from freezing. Pipes in basements or attics are not the only ones that may not be properly insulated from the cold. If you have had a problem with pipes freezing anywhere in your home, extra insulation could be the cure.

Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. This can be an easy solution for pipes that are exposed but can get expensive if walls, floors or ceilings have to be opened in order to properly insulate the pipe. Additional insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm.


Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  •  Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

How to Protect Pipes From Freezing

Before the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
  • Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

NOTICE TO ALL HAVELOCK RESIDENTS

It is the homeowners responsibility from the meter to the home.

Call a plumber if you have a pipe to break on the home side of the meter

The city is responsible from the meter to the main. If there is an issue in that segment, contact 252-670-0663.