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How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing

When winter causes temperatures to plummet, particularly over longer and colder nights, your home will face a lot of added strain and stress. Cold temperatures cause all sorts of changes to different substances and materials, and that can cause a lot of unexpected side effects that could be seriously problematic for your property. One such problem is frozen pipes—when your pipes themselves reach freezing temperatures, causing the water inside them to freeze solid as well.

Why are frozen pipes such a big deal? The answer is simple: they could burst, and a burst pipe can cause extreme flooding damage in a short amount of time. Unlike many other materials or substances that contract (or shrink) as they freeze, water expands when it freezes. This combination of expansion while also turning into a solid means that water needs space to expand into. However, in a pipe that is under pressure, there simply isn’t any space for the water to grow or expand. As a result, the water continues to push on your pipes from the inside, eventually causing the pipe to fail, crack, or even suddenly give out completely.

While you may not notice the impact of this right away, you’ll likely see it not long after the water in your frozen pipes thaws out and returns to liquid form. At this point, water usually gushes from these pipelines, causing damage to your property that can include foundation damage, structural damage, and so much more.

How can you prevent your pipes from freezing this winter? Here are three easy to follow tips that you should follow as a part of your winterization process.

Insulate Exposed Plumbing Lines

Exposed plumbing lines are by far the most vulnerable to freezing during freezing conditions, particularly exposed metallic lines like those built from copper or steel. Because these materials tend to gain and lose heat quickly, they’re prone to passing freezing temperatures to your water, causing it to freeze. Unfortunately, they are also the hardest types of pipe to repair if they are damaged by frozen water expansion.

One of the easiest ways to prevent pipes from freezing is to protect them from freezing temperatures by covering them with heat-containing insulation. Plumbing insulation is generally a tube of closed-cell foam that can easily be cut to length and wrapped around exposed plumbing lines in order to shield them from freezing temperatures and passing winds. This insulation is typically sold in six-foot lengths, and it’s available for just a few dollars from any local hardware store or home improvement warehouse. To install it, simply wrap it around the exposed plumbing line and then use a durable outdoor tape (duct tape works great) to attach the insulation to the exposed line.

Cover Exposed Spigots or Taps

Insulation may be great for exposed plumbing lines, but it doesn’t easily fit around taps, spigots, and other water fixtures that may be present on your property. Taps are also prone to freezing, and they can easily burst or fall apart themselves when the water inside the tap turns solid. A burst tap could cause just as much damage as a burst pipe. However, pipe covers don’t work for these fixtures.

Instead, you’ll need an insulating cover for these. Covers are also inexpensive and readily available, and they’re a piece of cake to install. Simply hook the looped end inside the cover around your tap itself, and then pull the string until the cover completely shields the tap. The cover should pull snug to the wall, and a layer of foam insulation should create a seal that keeps your tap from easily freezing over.

Shut Off Water in Outdoor Lines

Depending on how your plumbing system is configured, you may have the ability to shut off the water to various fixtures or features on your property. For example, if you have a decorative fountain or waterfall, you’ll want to shut off the water supply to it. Additionally, take the time to empty the water out of the pump to ensure that it survives the winter months, even if it freezes over, or consider covering the feature for added protection.

This is also a great time to shut off any irrigation or sprinkler systems. While some of these lines might be protected from the cold by being buried several inches underground, the sprinkler heads themselves could be at risk. Likewise, the water that your sprinklers release could instantly freeze during cold conditions, resulting in essentially covering your lawn in snow. That’s one of the last things your lawn needs during an already difficult winter season.

If you find yourself facing an emergency involving frozen pipes this winter, don’t hesitate to call for professional help! Call Joseph Giannone Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning at (215) 375-7134 today.