When temperatures fall below freezing, the worst-case scenario is that pipes can burst, and it’s as problematic as it sounds. Normally, keeping your house well-heated can keep most issues from ever arising. However, it is different in the case of a power outage or uncharacteristically severe winter weather. Take note that extra precautions should be taken. Frozen pipes are one of the most common types of winter storm damage, which means it’s something that needs to be addressed. If you’re local, we’re happy to help. Moreover, we also want you to be equipped to prepare your home so you can avoid this issue if possible. Bookmark this page, and read on.
This article will inform you on when you can typically expect these freezing temperatures. Additionally, you’ll learn what causes pipes to burst in the first place. Further down, you’ll find some practical tips and DIY ideas to prevent frozen pipes. In the end, we’ll fill you in on what to do if pipes burst because there are some action steps that you should take if you ever find yourself in this precarious situation.
When Should I Expect Drastic Changes in Temperature?
Every region of the country sees freezing temperatures at different times. This varies even more as the seasons change. According to weatherspark.com, temperatures begin to dip below freezing as early as November in Pennsylvania. The final days of freezing temperatures generally fall within March.
Things are likely not going to get drastic immediately, but at certain points between these months, the cold can cause dangerous issues. Particularly once the snow begins to pile up in January and February, your house can become at risk for frozen pipes, so you need to know how you can prevent your pipes from bursting.
How Do Temperature Changes Cause Pipes to Burst?
Pipes will burst when the water freezes and expands. This can range from PVC pipe systems for watering your property to the actual plumbing within your house. The risk is even greater when utilities like power are lost to the storm; the loss of heat can cause many issues wherever water is present inside your home. As water freezes, it expands by roughly 9%. This is a small number, but pipes are not built to expand, and even small changes can lead to drastic circumstances when it comes to water damage.
Because water pressure builds as the water freezes and expands, wherever the burst occurs it will continue to release water at high pressure, causing a large amount of water damage in a short amount of time. This is even worse inside the home because you are likely not going to notice it before major damage happens. It sounds serious, and it is – frozen pipes may not be something you need to be worried about as long as you maintain a good temperature in your home.
How Can I Prevent My Pipes From Bursting?
There are quite a few ways to minimize the risk of burst pipes in freezing cold weather. While unknown factors can always bring emergencies, taking precautions can drastically reduce the chance for expensive and costly repairs due to busted pipe replacement and water damage.
Here are a few key ways to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting:
Be Mindful of Where Your Water Lines Run
Are you leaving your garage door open and letting your water lines become exposed to the elements? Maybe you have a pump house with little to no insulation. Inspect your property and make a note of any pipes or water supply lines that are at risk of freezing – especially with the loss of power.
The pipes within the insulated sections of your home are protected. The same can’t be said for any water that is exposed to cold air regularly. Some lines, like sprinkler systems and swimming pools, are better off drained for the entirety of the cold season in order to prevent frozen pipes.
Install Backup Measures in Case of Power Outages
During winter storms, power outages can be common, and this poses a threat to your plumbing system. When the power is out for extended periods of time, the cold will quickly creep into your home and eventually reach your pipes. Once the pipes are reached by freezing air, you have 6 hours before extensive damage is done.
One great method to protect your plumbing from power outages is to buy and install a generator that will keep the heater on until power returns. The grid may be out for hours or days. Having a generator can do wonders for extending your pipe’s protection.
Prepare Your Home if You’re Leaving
It’s important that you make sure your home will stay at a safe temperature while you are absent. If you are leaving for a long period of time, even for a few days, set your temperature to nothing lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives your plumbing system adequate breathing room and avoids the risk of freezing.
If you are leaving for more than a week, it may be smart to have a trusted friend come and check on the house regularly to verify that the temperatures are still at safe levels.
Leave Your Plumbing System Slightly Open
There are two ways in which leaving your plumbing “open” can actually help prevent freezing. For one, leaving taps open just slightly and allowing a drip to escape can help prevent ice buildup because the water and pressure are continually flowing. It may heighten your water bill slightly, but it’s better than the alternative of frozen pipes and water damage restoration.
Somewhat similarly, allowing warm air to “leak” into your plumbing space can help maintain a good temperature around the pipes. This can be accomplished by leaving sink cabinets open underneath or cracking the door to your water heater room. Both will warm up the normally enclosed space and give it further protection.
Add Extra Insulation
If your pipes haven’t burst in past winters, odds are your house is well-insulated enough to handle the freezing temperatures. That being said, it can be incredibly helpful to add extra layers of insulation to further protect your home.
This isn’t necessarily because your insulation doesn’t work. Extra insulation can be beneficial if the power goes out, or for pipes in areas like the garage, attic, or pump house that could possibly have issues if left open by accident. It’s purely an extra safety measure.
For a more targeted approach, consider insulating individual pipes. Your local hardware store should have the correct materials to cover exposed pipes. This can make a huge difference in the chance of a power outage. Even a quarter of an inch of newspaper can make a surprising difference.
What Can I Do If My Pipes Burst?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having burst pipes in your home, it’s necessary that you act immediately. Turn the water off, if possible. Remove belongings that are in the room or adjacent rooms. Check all other plumbing in the house to ensure there aren’t other problems.
After you’ve done the above, the next step is to call a professional. Not only do you need plumbing repairs, but your house itself likely has sustained some serious water damage. A professional restoration company should perform a complete extraction of all water, monitor the drying process from start to finish, and help you restore any water-damaged belongings.
Compleat Restorations has been helping homeowners across Pennsylvania communities for 44 years with emergency situations just like this. If you are in need of professional help in restoring your property from burst pipes and water damage, contact us for immediate assistance.