Ways to Prevent Frozen Indoor Pipes & What to Do If the Pipes Freeze in Your Louisville Home
Freezing temperatures that occur in the Louisville area throughout the winter season put a home’s plumbing pipes at risk. Water pipes freeze when exposed to low temperatures for extended periods of time, and the pipes inside exterior walls or exposed pipes in unheated crawl spaces, garages, attics, and basements are most vulnerable within the home. Indoor pipes aren’t the only water pipes that can freeze – outdoor water lines including outdoor hose bibs, buried water supply pipes, water sprinkler lines, and swimming pool supply lines are also susceptible.
Louisville homeowners should take measures to prevent frozen pipes, as major damage can result whenever pipes freeze within the home. When water freezes inside a pipe, water expands to form ice, creating a blockage. Behind this point, water is still moving – the blockage of moving water creates tremendous pressure within metal or plastic pipes, stressing the pipe walls until a leak forms or the pipe bursts. It may be necessary to replace one pipe or many, depending on the damage, and your home may suffer extreme damage from remaining water if you do not drain water quickly from a burst pipe.
To help you avoid frozen pipes this season, Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling explains the steps to take across your entire home. Our licensed Louisville plumbers detail preventative measures that work to stop pipes from freezing, along with the security practices you should adopt whenever outdoor conditions present the possibility of frozen pipes. Learn about helpful products such as pipe insulation, heat tape, and heat cable, as well as steps such as keeping cabinet doors and garage doors closed.
Measures to prevent freezing aren’t always able to completely erase the risk of a frozen pipe, so our plumbers also share how to quickly thaw frozen pipes if they occur. The thawing process instructs you to apply heat in order to melt ice inside pipes using common household tools such as a portable space heater or heat lamp, or even everyday items like an electric heating pad, hair dryer, or towels soaked in hot water. We explain how to safely thaw a frozen pipe and avoid using potentially hazardous tools such as a charcoal stove, propane heater, propane torch, or other open flame device that has the potential to light flammable materials, melt plastic pipes, and cause a house fire.
Home Improvement Ideas that Reduce the Risk of a Frozen Pipe
The indoor pipes most vulnerable to freezing temperatures are those that are installed along unheated exterior walls and exposed pipes that run through areas like a crawl space, attic, basement, or garage that may be unheated or under-insulated. To safeguard your home’s water supply lines from freezing, there are many home improvements you can easily make in these key areas.
- Insulate pipes that are exposed using foam or fiberglass pipe sleeves or pipe wrap. These products can be purchased at home improvement stores and many homeowners find them easy to install as a DIY project. Adding insulation to pipes exposed in crawl spaces, attics, garages, and basements will help them retain heat and shield them from chilly air within the spaces where they run.
- Heat tape and heat cable are other products that can be applied directly to exposed pipes to help prevent pipes from freezing. Purchase a product appropriate for metal or plastic pipes, install by wrapping around the pipe surface, and plug into a nearby outlet. These products use an internal thermostat which will activate once the surrounding space drops to the same temperature as the tape or cable is set for, and electrical elements create heat along the pipe’s exterior to warm it.
- If your home has pipes running through unheated areas such as crawl spaces, garages, basements, or attics, installing more insulation in these spaces using fiberglass batting, foam boards, and other products can help you avoid frozen water pipes. Increasing insulation levels helps the space better hold its heat, keeping warmer air around the pipes to help stop them from freezing.
- Unheated spaces with exposed pipes can also benefit from air sealing. Closing gaps, cracks, and other exterior wall penetrations using silicone or expanding foam caulk keeps heat in the area and prevents the infiltration of cold air from outside the home so pipes aren’t exposed to as much cold.
- Adding pressure relief valves on water pipes can help you avoid damage if your home does experience frozen water pipes. The valve releases pressure from within the pipe so it is less likely to burst. Consult your plumber about completing this home improvement project.
Ways to Protect Against Frozen Pipes When It’s Cold Outside
Freezing pipes actually don’t become a risk for insider pipes when outdoor temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though that temperature is technically freezing, the threat of frozen pipes doesn’t start until outdoor temperatures fall to around 20 degrees or lower and these conditions are maintained for six hours or more. The pipes inside exterior walls and exposed water lines are at the greatest risk of freezing pipes as these spaces don’t stay as warm as areas close to the center of the house.
If outdoor temperatures are expected to sit at 20 degrees or below for six hours or longer, use these security practices to reduce the risk of freezing pipes in your home.
- Leave cabinet doors open underneath sinks throughout your entire house, but especially those on the perimeter wall of your residence. Keeping these doors open allows the home’s heat to circulate and warm the space around the water pipes.
- Keep your garage doors closed if there are pipes running through this area. By reducing the time that the overhead door is open, the garage will stay warmer and won’t lose as much heat due to incoming chilly air so pipes will stay warmer, too.
- Don’t turn the heat off entirely in your home at any point in the winter, and avoid drastic setbacks when extremely cold temperatures are expected. Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees throughout the season, but maintaining indoor temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees will be the greatest benefit as you try to prevent frozen pipes. When extremely cold weather is forecasted, turn up your heater a few degrees higher than you normally would to spread more warm air throughout the house to help keep pipes from freezing.
- Use space heaters to increase warmth in areas with exposed piping during these times. Use an electric space heater with safety features and make sure no flammable materials are nearby.
- Leave every faucet open so that a slight trickle of water runs constantly from the tap. Doing so keeps the water supply moving so that it is less likely to freeze.
Steps to Thaw Pipes in Exterior Walls and Exposed Areas
If frozen pipes do occur in your home, you need to quickly thaw them to limit the likelihood of pipe bursts and water damage. During periods of extreme cold, watch for the warning signs of a frozen pipe – low water pressure is the most commonly noticed symptom, and frozen pipes may also lead to a lack of cold water supply to fixtures served by affected pipes as well as visible frost or condensation along the frozen area of a pipe.
Before starting the thawing process to thaw pipes, identify the frozen area and open the faucets to affected fixtures. If you find signs of damage to pipes or an active leak, shut off the water supply to the home immediately and drain water from the affected area as quickly as possible.
The thawing process will have you apply heat directly to the pipe’s frozen area as well as the surrounding space.
- Apply heat on the frozen area directly using items such as an electric heating pad or towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the spot. You can also direct heat to the area using a hair dryer held a few inches away from the pipe’s surface.
- Increase heat in the area around exposed frozen pipes using space heaters. Do not use any open flame device such as a propane heater, propane torch, or charcoal stove, as these tools could damage the pipes, start a fire in the area, or cause other issues if not properly ventilated during use.
- To help thaw pipes behind walls, set up an infrared heat lamp near the frozen area. This device will help increase temperatures behind the wall and warm the pipe.
Normal water supply and water pressure should be restored once the frozen area is completely melted. At this point, close the faucets and inspect for damage to pipes as well as leaks in the home. If a pipe has burst or leaked, remove any remaining water in the area to prevent damage to your home. Have your plumber make repairs or replace affected pipes before turning the home’s water supply back on.
Professional Assistance for Frozen Pipes in Louisville
We hope that with the professional advice above, you will be able to prevent frozen pipes inside your Louisville home this winter season. Should you have a problem with a frozen pipe and need help thawing the pipe or replacing damage caused by a pipe burst, contact Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling right away.