A broken pipe can lead to water damage which can surmount to thousands of dollars in restoration. Adding insult to injury, excess water in a basement or other enclosed area can breed things like black mold; then you are looking at health issues and even more money. Spending a little on insulation, foam pipe sleeves, and other preventatives could save a lot more in the long run. All things considered, that proverbial ounce of prevention is usually the best way to go.
- An ounce of prevention:
Keeping your faucets open to a rapid drip on a really cold winter night could at least spare you from forthcoming problems. Better yet, opening your faucet to a slow trickle can help because flowing water is less likely to freeze. However, the best prevention measure is to insulate all pipes that run through an outside wall, a basement, or an attic. Any exposed pipe is prone to freezing.
When the extreme cold blows through, there are other things you can do to avoid frozen pipes, such as keeping the sink cabinet doors open and put a space heater nearby, being careful no flammable material is close. This will allow the air beneath your sink and around the pipes to remain a little warmer. If you plan to go out of town for the holidays, don’t turn your thermostat down below 55 degrees. The heating bill might cost you a little extra, but it can you a fortune in the end.
Next you should go outside, where water pipes are directly exposed to the elements. Take your hoses off the outside spigots and store them away. Then be sure the spigots are protected with foam caps, towels or some other material that will protect them. Even a thick layer of newspaper can substitute for insulation in an emergency. Also, use silicon or caulk to seal any holes or cracks in your outside walls. Finally, any waterlines going into and out of a swimming pool should be drained then covered.
- What causes a break?
Even a very short un-insulated length of water pipe can cause a great deal of trouble if it freezes. The freezing itself doesn’t really hurt the pipe, contrary to popular belief. The problem is the unfrozen water between the icy blockage and the faucet. Water expands as it freezes which builds up pressure if your water outlet is shut off completely. The added pressure will strain any weak point in the pipe or joints. If that is not released somehow, it will cause a break.
- Unfreezing pipes
There are easy ways to unfreeze a pipe if you know where the blockage is located and can get to it easily. First, make sure your faucet is fully opened. So the trapped water will be able to escape, relieving any pressure in lines. Next, find a way to heat up that frozen pipe. This can be done with a standard hair dryer, or by taping a heating pad around the pipe. A bath towel soaked in very warm water would suffice. A space heater could be placed near the pipe. After your heating item is in place, stay near the faucet. When the ice blockage begins to melt, you will observe a slow trickle that will speed up rapidly because flowing water will erode the ice faster.