How to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes
- Make sure to keep pipes dry and insulated from cold moving air. Locate the main water shut off in case you’ll need it. Leaks often happen when pipes are thawed.
- Use heat tapes wrapped around the pipes. Heat tapes work by a built-in thermostat. In order to work, heat tape must be wrapped between the pipe and the insulation. Be sure to follow manufacturer instruction since some tapes do not allow insulation over the heat tape. You can also use a heated reflector lamp in a dry, enclosed place. On cold nights, make sure to check the light to see that it is working.
- Let water run from the faucets no faster than a slow constant drip, especially if electric power is unavailable or lost. Letting water drip is much cheaper than having to do repairs. First start a slow drip on the hot side faucet, then a faster drip on the cold side faucet. There is no need to run a lot of water. You can run cold water in the bathrooms, as long as they aren’t freezing.
- Don’t forget to insulate and heat drain lines in crawl spaces and in cold basements. A heat lamp focused on the drain p-trap will keep it from freezing as long as it is protected from moving cold air such as with a boxed enclosure, which you can build yourself.
- When thawing frozen pipes, be sure to check the pipe in the areas that are frozen. It is possible for copper and plastic pipes to split and flood the surrounding area when thawed. If there is a broke pipe or split, it is recommended to call a plumber. All metal pipes can be thawed by connecting a welder onto the pipe on each side of the frozen part and after a while, it will be running again.
- Heating the area with a space heater, a hand-held dryer, or a heat lamp in a reflector is the safest way to prevent a fire. Be cautious when placing heat generating devices and never leave these devices unattended for any amount of time while in use. Call a plumber if this is a problem. Heat lamps, space heaters and reflective lamps can generate high temperatures causing combustion of certain materials.
Do not use any kind of open flames, it may burst your pipes.
- Always be sure to disconnect your water hose from your outdoor spigot before temperatures begin to drop below freezing. The water left inside the hose can freeze and continue to freeze into the spigot until it reaches your pipes. If there is PVC piping leading to the spigot, this will cause it to burst.
- Install a temperature-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve. This does not require electricity to operate, however, circulating water throughout your system continuously will increase your water heating bill. Unlike heat tape, this process circulates water non-stop to prevent crystallization and freezing no matter where the pipes are hidden.
- Use ICE LOC. This is a product that prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water. It’s an elastomer that fits inside trouble areas of the pipe.
- Use a RedyTemp. This is a device which utilizes an internal water contacting temperature probe to monitor the temperature of the water inside the pipes. Depending on the temperature set point you choose on the unit’s temperature dial, it will intermittently circulate water throughout both hot and cold water lines “as needed” to maintain the selected temperature. Intermittent circulation typically results in 5 minutes of actual circulation per hour causing far less water heater demand compared to continuous demand from thermostatic valves
- The RedyTemp optimizer installation is a DIY project that can be easily installed under a sink in about 20 minutes. Users are able to gauge the effectiveness of their chosen set point by opening cold water faucets upstream and feeling the temperature of the water that is coming out of the tap, and adjust the set point accordingly until optimized.
- During off seasons when circulation is not desired, users simply lower the temperature set point to prevent circulation.
Consider hiring a licensed plumber if you have any reservations about following these steps.
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