With the frigid temperatures, protecting your pipes from freezing is an essential part of winter home maintenance. Water expands as it freezes; this can cause pipes to crack or burst, resulting in serious flooding and water damage to your home and belongings. Damaged pipes can also make your home more susceptible to mold growth. The pipes that are the most at risk are the ones that run against exterior walls or are located in uninsulated or unheated areas, like an attic or basement.
Fortunately, there are several preventive measures you can take to reduce the risk of burst pipes—and expensive property damage. If your pipes are already frozen, we’ll also provide some steps to take to thaw them out.
- Disconnect Your Garden Hoses
Once you’re done gardening for the season, disconnect all your garden hoses. Close off any shut-off valves and open the outdoor faucets so you can drain the line. Leave these open throughout the winter so there’s plenty of space for any water that may be trapped in the line to expand without damaging the pipes. Faucet covers, available at many hardware stores, are also a cost-effective way to give your pipes additional protection from the cold. If you have a sprinkler system, you’ll also want to drain the water from the supply lines.
- Add Insulation to Your Pipes
Insulating your pipes is another cost-effective way to prevent them from bursting. Focus on insulating pipes in unheated areas, like garages, crawl spaces, attics, or basements. The pipes under the kitchen and bathroom sinks can also be vulnerable to damage when the temperatures drop low enough, so you may also want to consider applying foam insulation to them, too. Wrapping your pipes in thermostat-controlled heat cables or heat tape can also prevent them from freezing.
- Seal Air Leaks
Take some time to look around your home for any openings or cracks that are letting in cold air, and seal them with caulk or insulation. Pay close attention to holes around electrical wiring, pipes in the interior or exterior walls, the sill plates, dryer vents and pipes, and where your home rests on its foundation. Also, make a point to keep your garage door closed, except when you’re going in or out.
- Open the Cabinets and Doors in Your Home
Opening the cabinets and doors in your home will allow warm air to circulate around the pipes and keep the heat evenly distributed. If you have young children or pets, make sure to remove any household chemicals in your cabinets first.
- Keep Your Faucets Dripping
Leaving a few faucets (preferably those fed by exposed pipes) dripping overnight helps relieve pressure on the pipes and prevent ice from forming.
- Keep Your Home a Consistent Temperature
During other times of the year, it’s best to set your thermostat to be lower at night or when you’re away from home; during the winter, however, consistent temperature is the key to keeping your pipes damage-free. If you plan to be away from home, set your thermostat to at least 55°F. Although this might raise your energy bill slightly, it’s worth it to prevent potential water damage from a burst pipe.
Steps to Take if Your Pipes Are Frozen
If you think your pipes are already frozen, turn on the faucet; if the water is only dripping or trickling out, the pipe is likely blocked by ice. Inspect the exposed pipe for breaks or cracks. If you see any signs that the pipe has burst, turn off your home’s main water supply and call PECO Heating & Cooling right away. Don’t attempt to thaw the pipe on your own, because this could cause flooding. If you’re having trouble finding the main water line, we can guide you. We have a 24/7 answering service, so there’s always someone available to assist you!
If the pipe looks good, turn on the faucet and let the flowing water melt the ice. Use a heating pad, hairdryer, warm damp towels, or a space heater to apply gentle heat to a frozen section of the pipe. Don’t use anything that has an open flame, like a lighter or blow torch to thaw the pipe because this can damage it (and it’s a fire hazard). If you can’t access the pipe or thaw it safely, give PECO a call at (864) 639-2424!