Many businesses and homes will suffer disruption this winter because of the damage caused by frozen water pipes. Cold nights and weekends can very quickly turn into ongoing, inconvenient and extremely disruptive events.
Pipes freeze for a combination of three reasons:
• quick drops in temperature
• poor insulation
• thermostats set too low
Both plastic and copper pipes can burst when they freeze, and recovering from frozen pipes is not as simple as calling a plumber and then your insurance broker. A ¼ cm crack in a pipe can lead to the escape of up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mould.
Frozen pipes cause a huge amount of damage each year and, unlike other events, this disaster is largely preventable. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help save yourself the mess, money, and aggravation that frozen pipes cause.
Your Best Bet: Don’t Let It Happen
There are a number of preventative steps you can take to keep your pipes from freezing. Here are a few simple tips:
Before The Cold
You can prepare by protecting your home now:
• Insulate pipes. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember – the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be. As well as foam & fibreglass products, heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes
• Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze
• Before the big freeze hits, disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside taps. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house
When The Temperature Drops
Even if you’ve taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. Here are a few more steps you can take:
• A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a tap on an outside wall
• Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you’re asleep, but further drops in the temperature – more common overnight – could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes
• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls
Before You Leave
If you’re away during the winter months don’t forget to think about your pipes before you leave.
• Set the thermostat to no lower than 12°C
• Check daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing
• Shut off and drain the water system. However, be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water
If Your Pipes Do Freeze
What do you do if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventative measures? Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they’ve already burst. Here’s what you can do:
• If you turn on your taps and nothing comes out, leave the taps turned on and call a plumber
• Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water – you could be electrocuted
• Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your property!
• You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the tap as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe
• If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the mains shutoff valve. Leave the water taps turned on. Make sure that you know where the mains water valve is and how to open and close it
• If the worst does happen, please call your usual contact at Yutree Insurance and we will arrange emergency help and remediation