Well, it’s that time of year again. Freezing temperatures are right around the corner, and the risk of freezing pipes will be on the rise.
Each year, St Paul Pipeworks receives a call to a house where the metal water pipes have frozen in the house during the winter. These “freeze and break” situations occur when there isn’t enough heat in the house or when cold air blows directly on the pipe and the water inside the pipe freezes. The good news is that freezing pipes are easily preventable.
When water freezes, it expands and eventually breaks open the copper or galvanized steel pipes. The newer pipe that is used for most water piping is PEX (short for Cross-Linked Polyethylene), and PEX pipe, when frozen, is more flexible and will not normally break.
Frozen Pipes Don’t Leak Until They Thaw
Interestingly, any water damage in the home due to broken pipes will not appear until the water in the pipe starts to thaw out. Then the leaks will begin to appear. This usually takes more than 24 hours because the residual heat stays in the house. It typically takes two or three days without heat to freeze water in the pipes after the furnace, boiler, or other heat source shuts off.
After a “freeze and break” occurs, there is a lot of detective work for the plumber to locate the break. Often homeowners and sometimes even insurance companies think that once a single “freeze and break” is repaired and the water is turned back on, the problem is over. Almost always, multiple breaks occur.
The Fix Is Not Always Simple
Inexperienced plumbers will fix the first leak and turn the water back on to find that there are one or more places where the pipes have been compromised, and additional breaks and leaks need to be repaired. St Paul Pipeworks plumbers try to scope out where all the leaks are located first and determine if it is possible to reuse any of the pipes in the house.
Often, most or all of the piping in the home needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, many of the plumbing lines are located inside walls and ceilings, concealed from easy inspection. It takes time to locate all broken pipes and either replace them all or individually repair all the breaks.
Appliances Can Freeze Too
Other things can be affected by frozen pipes. Some appliances may have a little bit of water residue remaining in them that freezes up and ruins them. Clothes washers, dishwashers, and water heaters can all be affected. In addition, the waste P-traps under the fixtures may freeze and break.
The water meter setup and outdoor lawn faucets that are not properly turned off in the Fall can break and cause damage. Typically, insurance companies will pay for restoration in this case. They will pay for the replacement plumbing and the restoration of all the damage caused.
Turning Off The Water May Not Be Enough
Sometimes when people leave for long periods of time, they will simply turn off the main water supply to the house. The problem with that is if someone is coming into the house while you are away and needs to use a plumbing fixture or get water for pets or plants, the water is off.
Also, just turning the water off is not enough to fully winterize the house when no one will live there for a period of time. The water heater and the water lines themselves also need to be emptied. St Paul Pipeworks plumbers recommend that people use an RV antifreeze to pour in the water-sealed waste P-traps so they do not freeze.
Tech To The Rescue!
There are new technologies that people can use to help avoid. There are signaling properties in many new smart home devices that will alert you when the heat is off in your house or if the temperature falls below a pre-set temperature. The homeowner will receive an alert to remotely turn off the water to the house. There is also equipment that attaches right to the plumbing that will shut the main plumbing off if the temperature gets too low.
St Paul Pipeworks encourages people to use one of them if they are going to be gone for an extended period during the winter. It is smart to be proactive about this and to purchase a device to tell you if you start to have a problem. It is best to use new technology, but if you cannot do that, have a neighbor stop at your house every three days, and if it is cold, to alert you that there is a problem.
If you have frozen pipes and water leaks in your house or are just looking for a quality plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, give St Paul Pipeworks a call today.
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FAQ 1: How do I know if my pipes are at risk of freezing?
Answer: Pipes are vulnerable to freezing when exposed to extremely low temperatures, especially if they lack insulation or are located in unheated areas like attics, crawl spaces, or outside walls. Homes with inadequate heating during freezing weather are also at risk.
FAQ 2: What should I do if I suspect my pipes are frozen?
Answer: If you suspect frozen pipes, turn off the main water supply immediately to prevent further damage. Thaw the pipes gently using a hairdryer or towels soaked in hot water. Avoid using open flames or electrical appliances directly on the pipes.
FAQ 3: How can I prevent frozen pipes during winter?
Answer: To prevent frozen pipes, ensure adequate insulation for exposed pipes and keep indoor temperatures above freezing. Let faucets drip slightly to maintain water flow, especially in extremely cold weather. Consider smart home devices that signal temperature drops or automatically shut off the main water supply.
FAQ 4: What damage can frozen pipes cause?
Answer: Frozen pipes can burst, leading to water damage once the ice thaws. This damage might not be immediately visible but can cause leaks in walls, ceilings, and floors. Appliances like water heaters, washers, and dishwashers can also be affected.
FAQ 5: How can I prepare my home before extended periods away during winter?
Answer: Before leaving your home for an extended period in winter, consider fully winterizing it. Shut off the main water supply, empty water lines, and utilize RV antifreeze in waste P-traps. Alternatively, invest in technology that alerts you to temperature drops or remotely shuts off the water supply.