Cold air does a lot more than annoy people: it can wreak havoc on your plumbing and heating systems if they are not properly maintained, causing expensive and extensive repair.
While no homeowner enjoys making repairs to his or her home, winter is most definitely the worst season in which to attend to these.
Biggest Winter Repair: Burst Pipes
One of the top plumbing problems during winter involves burst pipes. Burst pipes can cause serious damage: not only will the heat not operate properly in your home, but once the pipe breaks, you have an active leak and need immediate service. If the leak is not stopped in an adequate amount of time, you will need to not only fix the broken pipe, you’ll be fixing any ensuing water damage as well.
Causes of Broken Pipes
What causes a burst or broken pipe? Generally, when a pipe bursts, it has been exposed to freezing temperatures due to its location (i.e., exposure) or the insulation that is on, or around, the pipe has failed. Once the pipe reaches freezing temperatures, the water inside the pipe also freezes, and does so along the inner walls of the pipe’s tube.
Once enough ice forms, two things happen simultaneously: first, the ice builds, forming an ice dam inside the pipe, which causes any moving water left in the pipe to become blocked. This blocked water then begins to build pressure. The second problem is the ice itself: ice expands as it freezes, forcing the pipe to weaken. With both kinds of pressure occurring at the same time, the pipe eventually gives out, causing a burst or break, which will result in needing plumbing repairs.
Preventing Burst Pipes
What can be done to avoid burst pipes and more expenses? There are several things a homeowner can do to help avoid dealing with the repair of burst pipes.
Be proactive. Find any and all exposed pipes you may have and get them insulated. The best way to do this is to wrap the pipes with electrical heating tape, and then wrap the pipe with foam insulation. If you do not have heating tape, it is important to at least put on the foam insulation.
Maintain exterior faucets properly. As fall arrives, exterior faucets need to be cut off from the house water supply and be completely drained to avoid trapped water freezing inside the pipe during winter. If you use an outdoor hose, disconnect the hose and drain the outside faucet to which it attaches. You can go one step further and purchase insulated coverings to help protect the outside faucets through the winter.
Use RV anti-freeze. If your home is old and/or has consistent problems every winter with pipes that freeze, you may want to consider putting RV anti-freeze into the pipes. RV anti-freeze is designed specifically for use with plumbing and heating, so it is non-toxic and can be used with most materials. Anti-freeze can protect your pipes up to -50 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months. Just keep in mind that only a licensed plumber should put anti-freeze into your system.
Watch the weather. If you are aware of a serious cold snap coming, open any cabinetry that contain pipes that are part of an outside wall, such as in a kitchen or bathroom. For the duration of the cold snap, keep the cabinets open and run a trickle of water through those faucets, as running water does not have the ability to pool up and freeze.
Make the call. Lastly, in the event you have a burst pipe or pipes, call your plumber immediately to avoid ancillary damage.