When the temperatures drop, your pipes can freeze.

Anyone who has lived in Minnesota for any period of time has experienced or knows someone who has experienced a frozen pipe. In this blog, we’ll give you some tips on how to prevent your pipes from freezing during the cold winter months.

As we enter the coldest months of winter, it’s important to take steps to protect your residential plumbing from the sub-zero temperatures that can cause pipes to freeze and burst. A burst pipe can severely damage your home and its contents and cause costly repairs.

The most susceptible pipes run along exterior walls (especially northern or western-facing walls) or in unheated spaces such as crawlspaces and basements.

Pipes Don’t Leak When They Freeze – They Leak When They Thaw

Let’s talk about why frozen pipes burst and what causes them to leak. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily the freezing itself that causes plumbing leaks. In fact, many pipes do not leak when they are frozen. It sounds crazy, but keep reading.

As water freezes, it expands and exerts pressure inside the pipe. This can lead to the pipes expanding to the point of eventually bursting. However, it is interesting to note that frozen pipes do not always leak immediately.

Built-up ice will often prevent water from flowing and reaching the split pipe. When the ice finally thaws, the melting ice will start to seep out of the damaged pipe. Once completely thawed and the water supply is restored, the water will start to flow from the cracked pipe, potentially causing significant damage to your home.

Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Here are some practical tips on how to protect your residential plumbing during sub-zero temperatures:

In The Fall – Get Prepared

  1. Insulate your pipes: Insulating your pipes can help prevent them from freezing in cold weather. You can use foam pipe insulation or electrical heating tape to wrap your pipes. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.
  2. Seal any gaps or cracks in your foundation: Cold air can enter your home through gaps or cracks in the foundation and cause your pipes to freeze. Be sure to seal any such openings to help prevent this from happening.
  3. Disconnect your garden hoses: If you have outdoor faucets, disconnect them before the first hard freeze of fall and store them inside. Leaving a hose connected can allow water to freeze inside the supply pipe, which can cause it to burst.
  4. Turn off the water supply to outside faucets: Turning off the water supply to your outdoor lines will help prevent them from freezing close to exterior walls. You should contact a plumber immediately if you forgot to do it before winter. They may need to cut and drain the supply pipes and slowly warm them to melt any ice that has formed near the outside faucets. You will still need to repair the section that froze, which can be costly, especially if the pipes are concealed in walls or other inaccessible locations.
  5. Install stop valves with drain vents: If you haven’t already done so, consider having a plumber install inside stop valves with drain vents for your outdoor faucet supply lines. The drain vents will allow you to drain any water left in the pipe after you turn the water supply off to your outside faucets.
  6. Insulate crawlspaces and attics: If you have an unfinished crawlspace or attic, take steps to seal the access doors and install insulation to help protect your pipes. You may also add a strip of heat tape to vulnerable water pipes in these spaces.

In The Winter – Damage Control

  1. Keep your thermostat set to a consistent temperature: Maintaining a consistent temperature in your home can help prevent your pipes from freezing. When you are away from home for an extended period of time, set your thermostat to at least 55°F to ensure that your pipes stay above freezing.
  2. Keep your garage doors closed: If you have plumbing in your garage, keep the garage doors closed as much as possible to help keep the area warm. Even if you have no plumbing in the garage, this space can serve as an insulator to areas of your home that do have plumbing.
  3. Consider using a plumbing blanket: A plumbing blanket is a unique insulating material designed to wrap around your pipes to protect them from the cold. Plumbing blankets can be purchased at a hardware store and are easy to install.
  4. Allow faucets to drip: Allowing a slow trickle of water to flow through your faucets can help prevent your pipes from freezing. This is because moving water is less likely to freeze than standing water.
  5. Leave cabinet doors open: If you have pipes in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, leave them open to allow warm air to circulate around them. This can help keep these pipes from freezing.
  6. Shut off the main water valve: If you’re going to be away from home for an extended time, consider shutting off the main valve to your house and running all faucets and fixtures until there is no water flow. This will help prevent water from freezing and damaging pipes exposed to cold temperatures in the event of a power outage or furnace malfunction.

How about “Freezeless Outside Faucets?” Do They Work?

photo of frost-proof outside faucetA freezeless faucet, also known as an anti-freeze faucet or a frost-proof faucet, is a type of outdoor faucet designed to prevent the water inside the pipe from freezing during cold weather. These faucets are most often used in areas where the temperature regularly drops below freezing.

Freezeless faucets are designed with a longer stem and a built-in vacuum breaker, which allows the water to drain out of the pipe when the faucet is turned off. This helps prevent the water from freezing inside the supply line, which can cause it to burst.

Freezeless faucets are a good option for protecting your outdoor plumbing during cold weather, as they can help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. However, it’s still important to take other steps to protect your plumbing, such as insulating your pipes and sealing any gaps or cracks in your foundation to prevent cold air from entering your home.

When To Call a Plumber

If you’re concerned about your residential plumbing during the winter months, having a professional plumber assess your situation is a good idea. A plumber can identify any potential issues and recommend the best course of action to protect your plumbing. They may also be able to install additional insulation or make any necessary repairs to ensure that your pipes are adequately protected.

In conclusion, protecting your residential plumbing during sub-zero temperatures is essential to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. If you need help determining what additional steps you can take to protect your home, a professional plumber from St Paul Pipeworks can provide guidance and ensure that your plumbing is protected against the bitter cold of winter.

If you have any questions about protecting your pipes from freezing this winter or are just looking for a quality plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, send St Paul Pipeworks a message or give us a call at (651)644-9400 today!

FAQs for Protecting Pipes from Freezing in Winter

Q: Why do pipes burst when they freeze?

A: When water freezes inside a pipe, it expands, creating pressure within the pipe. This expansion can cause pipes to crack or burst. However, the actual leaking occurs when the frozen water thaws, allowing the water to escape from the damaged pipe.

Q: What steps can I take to prevent frozen pipes?

A: Several measures can help prevent pipes from freezing: insulate pipes, seal foundation gaps, disconnect outdoor hoses before freezes, install stop valves with drain vents, and insulate vulnerable spaces like crawlspaces and attics.

Q: How can I protect my plumbing during winter absences?

A: Maintain a consistent temperature indoors (at least 55°F), keep garage doors closed, consider using plumbing blankets, allow faucets to drip, leave cabinet doors open to circulate warm air around pipes, and shut off the main water valve if away for an extended period.

Q: Do freezeless outside faucets effectively prevent freezing?

A: Freezeless faucets are designed to prevent freezing by draining water when turned off. While they offer protection, it’s advisable to complement them with insulation and sealing gaps to safeguard outdoor plumbing during freezing temperatures.

Q: When should I contact a plumber for winter plumbing concerns?

A: It’s wise to consult a professional plumber if you’re concerned about your plumbing during winter. They can assess potential issues, recommend protective measures, install insulation, or conduct necessary repairs to ensure your pipes are adequately safeguarded.

How To Avoid Frozen Pipes In Sub-Zero Temperatures: Ask A Plumber…