As temperatures fall, the chance of weather related home damage goes up. Frozen water pipes are one of the most common – and costly – winter repairs. Cold temperatures can cause water pipes to freeze, and built up pressure can cause pipes to burst. Resultant flooding can cause serious damage, especially if no one is home. Long Island families, snowbirds and second homeowners can take a few simple steps to protect their most valuable asset. Brand360 asked the experts at United Water Restoration Group in Islandia for their advice on preventing water damage from frozen pipes, and what to do if you experience flooding.
“It is a common misconception that frozen pipes are only an issue for homes in cold climates,” says Phil DePaul, owner of United Water Restoration Group. Homes that are actually more vulnerable are those in warmer climates where pipes may not be properly insulated against frigid temperatures or where pipes may be located in unprotected areas (even outdoors). When unusually cold weather hits, it can put those pipes at risk. “Regardless of where you live, the only pipes you need to worry about are your water supply pipes, not your drain pipes, DePaul adds. “Drain pipes are larger than water pipes and are usually made of plastic. They carry waste water, but don’t hold water and are not pressurized like water pipes, so freezing inside drains is not a concern.”
Protecting your pipes is simple. With decades of experience, United Water Restoration Group recommends five easy steps homeowners can take to protect their pipes from freezing:
Tip #1: Keep the Heat On
If you or your tenants are leaving for a long period of time, make sure that the heat is kept on at the property. It may be difficult to convince tenants to leave their heat on when they are away, especially if they are responsible for paying their own utility bills. You should inform them that the heat can help prevent pipes from freezing, and if pipes freeze and burst, it can cause water damage to the property and to their possessions.
The heat does not have to be kept as high as you normally would, but keeping it above 50 degrees Fahrenheit is a good idea. This should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and to prevent water inside from freezing.
Tip #2: Allow the Faucet to Drip
If you are afraid a pipe will freeze, you can open the faucet fed by that pipe just a bit so the faucet drips slightly. This relieves pressure in the system. It is actually the pressure created between the blockage and the faucet that will cause the pipe to burst. If the faucet is served by both hot and cold water pipes, open both faucet taps slightly, or set a single-handle faucet (such as a kitchen faucet) to warm.
Tip #3: Keep Interior Doors Open
Pipes are often located in cabinets. When the temperature drops, it is a good idea to keep these cabinet doors open, so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm. You should also keep all interior doors open so that the heat can flow throughout the home.
Tip #4: Seal Up Cracks and Holes
Seal gaps around holes where pipes run through walls or floors, especially where the hole is letting in cold air. Use caulk or spray foam insulation (such as Great Stuff) to fill the gaps. If possible, seal holes on both the interior and exterior side of the wall or floor. Cold outdoor air that escapes in through holes and gaps can make a cabinet compartment cold.
Tip #5: Add Extra Insulation or Heating Tape
Pipes in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation or heating tape to keep from freezing. Pipes in basements or attics are not the only ones that may not be properly insulated from the cold. If you have had a problem with pipes freezing anywhere in your home, extra insulation or heating tape could be the cure.
Insulation can help keep a pipe closer to the temperature of the water inside the pipe, but it does not add heat to the pipe and will not prevent freezing if the pipe is exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures. Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. This can be an easy solution for pipes that are exposed but can get expensive if walls, floors or ceilings have to be opened in order to properly insulate the pipe. Additional insulation can be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm.
Heating tape works like an electric blanket, supplying heat directly to the pipe to keep it warm. This can be a good solution for short sections of pipe that are at high risk for freezing, and are easily accessible so you can install the tape and monitor for problems.
What to Do if Your Pipes Burst This Winter
Flooding can cause serious damage to your home or business. It only takes a few hours for the water to wreak havoc on property and possessions. Water can shrink leather, warp wood and damage carpet, among other problems. Immediate repair is crucial in preventing water damage from further destroying your residential or commercial property.
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