Exposed plumbing is vulnerable to cold temperatures. Water will freeze whenever the temperature drops to 32℉ or lower; when it does, it expands and pushes on a pipe from within. At the very least, this can cause small cracks that lead to significant water damage. It can also lead to a burst pipe, the direst of plumbing emergencies. Fortunately, these events can be avoided by protecting your exposed plumbing from the elements.
Winterizing Exposed Plumbing
A key step to winterizing your home is to protect the pipes outside your house and in unconditioned spaces like the garage and attic. Here are some steps you can take so they’re less likely to freeze:
- Install Pipe Insulation: Foam insulation is readily available at home improvement stores. If you have exposed pipes in unheated areas like the basement, garage, attic, or crawlspace, wrap them in foam insulation. You can connect sections of foam and secure them around pipe joints using duct tape.
- Close Outdoor Faucets: If an outdoor faucet has a cut-off valve, make sure to drain the faucet and close the valve. Installing a faucet cover provides an extra layer of protection. Additionally, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored inside so water doesn’t freeze and ice doesn’t back up into your pipes.
- Apply Heat Tape/Cables: Water pipes exposed on the exterior of your home don’t have anything between them and the cold air. You can protect them with pipe sleeves. Other options include heat tape or heat cables, some of which are controlled by a thermostat. These will keep your pipes warm enough so they do not freeze.
Don’t Forget the Exposed Plumbing Inside Your Home
You may not think about it much, but there’s plenty of exposed pipe in a typical home. If it gets cold enough, it can just as easily freeze as a pipe located outside or in traditionally colder spaces. Here are a few ways you can protect it:
- Set your thermostat to a consistent temperature, of at least 55℉, so pipes don’t freeze. This can also improve heating efficiency and lower energy costs.
- Look for holes, cracks, and openings in your home that allow cold air in. Any openings in walls and around doors or windows should be sealed.
- If a faucet is connected to an exposed pipe, allow the cold and hot water to drip in the bitter cold. This can prevent ice from forming and relieve pressure inside pipes if they do freeze.
- Open any cabinets where there are exposed pipes to allow warm air to circulate. Just make sure toxic cleaners and chemicals are out of reach of children.
- Leave interior doors ajar so warm, conditioned air can circulate throughout your home. It will prevent things from getting too cold where exposed plumbing may be.
What to Do If an Exposed Pipe Freezes
If you get only a trickle of water from a faucet, see ice on a pipe, or it is bulging, you’re likely dealing with a frozen pipe. The good thing is that exposed plumbing is easy to access. You prevent additional damage by first opening the faucet for that pipe; flowing water helps the ice melt faster.
Next, you need a heat source. Wrap a heating pad around the pipe and turn the temperature up, run a hair dryer on high and aim it at the pipe, or wrap the pipe in heated, dampened towels. You can also put a space heater near the affected area. It will circulate warm air to help thaw it out. If an enclosed pipe has frozen, turn up the thermostat for your heater; if necessary, you can cut a section of drywall to reach the pipe and use any of the previous tips.
Call Air Stars
If you have a cracked or burst pipe or are unable to unfreeze exposed plumbing, call a plumber right away. Air Stars, a reliable plumbing services company based in Kieser, OR, is available in emergencies and can help with repairs and preventative maintenance. If you need us, request service online or call 503-744-6985.