Returning home from a holiday vacation – or even a long day at work – to find a burst pipe is no fun for anyone. Thankfully there are easy tips and tricks for keeping your pipes, and, ultimately, your home, safe.
Add Insulation to Your Pipes
Al Ruggie of 911 Restoration said insulating your water pipes will keep much of the cold temperatures from freezing at any micro stagnation points within the lines.
Construction veteran Angela Hood says spray foam is the easiest to apply and the easiest to remove, but, if you want to “upcycle,” bubble wrap is the way to go.
It won’t look great, but “people would be awed at how much energy expenditure this would save them,” she said. “It’s worth being a bit unattractive.”
Any faucets that are on the exterior of the house should be wrapped with foam insulation or old towels, as well, said Henry Rodriguez of All Pro Plumbing and Heating. “You can obtain tubing from your local hardware store at low cost. Simply slide the sleeve around the pipe and use some duct tape to secure it. If the faucet extends from the wall, a faucet cover can be used to insulate and protect it from freezing.”
Maintain Warm Temperatures in Your House
“If you have to leave your house for more than a couple days, you should keep your heat in the 60s so that your pipes don’t freeze,” said Mike Bare, of Better Basement Solutions.
Open all Sink Cabinets
Rodriguez said this will allow the warm air to circulate around your pipes and prevent them from freezing.
Let the Water Run
Turning your faucets on and letting them slowly drip can prevent pipes from bursting because it will prevent pressure from building up within them, said Rodriguez.
Ruggie agrees. “Drip any outdoor lines constantly so they don’t freeze with water in them,” he said. “It’s better to waste a few hundred drops a day on the water bill than to have a burst pipe destroy your whole house.”
If you’re going to be away from home for a while, Bare suggests asking a neighbor or friend to turn on water in your house occasionally while you’re gone.
ID Your Water Shutoff Valve
“In the case of a pipe freeze where you cannot spot the troubled area of exposed pipe, it is best to shut off the water so that water pressure doesn’t build up and case a pipe burst and flood,” said Michelle Shen of Ferguson Enterprises, a wholesale plumbing supply distributer.
If you’re going to be away for an extended period, Rodriguez suggests draining your pipes by cutting off water at the valve and opening all your taps.
Watch What Goes Down Your Drains
“Never put grease down your drains as this can create clog points that are more susceptible to freezing and bursting in the winter,” said Ruggie. “Never use caustic chemicals to clean your pipes either, as this will corrode the metal and weaken them, which during winter can end poorly.”
Utilize a Monitoring Solution
Tracy Lewis of Vector Security said low-temperature sensors can be installed in basements, bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of your home where water pipes are present. “If the temperature in these areas drops below 45 degrees, the sensors let the homeowner and monitoring center operators know, so that action can be taken to prevent damage.
“Similarly, water leak sensors can be installed in flood-prone areas of your home to detect accumulation of water caused by cracked or broken water pipes. If excessive water levels are detected, an alarm is trigged.”
Finally, Ruggie suggests having a professional inspect your entire plumbing system for irregularities. “This will serve two functions,” he said. “One, you will ensure that if there is a problem, that they likely see it. And two, if you do have a burst after their inspection, then you’ll at least be able to show your insurance company that you did your due diligence in prevention efforts.”