Why Pipes Freeze During the Winter Months

frozen exterior pipeEven during a mild Boston winter, you should still expect temperatures to reach well below freezing. And when that happens, it’s critical to take extra care of your home.

Water expands as it freezes, thus putting additional stress on the pipes that contain it. Furthermore, frozen pipes can limit the ability to access water in certain parts of your home. Not to mention the fact that it increases the risk of a pipe bursting, which can cause widespread damage to your home and property.

While there is no surefire way to protect against frozen pipes in your home, knowledge of why this happens can help prevent trouble. Here are the types of pipes that are most likely to freeze[i]:

  • Those that run along an exterior wall
  • Those that have no insulation
  • Those that are located in unheated parts of your home, such as an attic and unfinished basement

If you know of any pipes in your home that fit into one or more of these categories, take action to help protect against freezing.

How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Rather than cross your fingers and hope for the best, there are ways to protect your pipes from freezing. Here are four of the best[ii]:

  • Turn up the heat: Yes, it’ll increase your energy bill, but it’ll also lessen the likelihood of your pipes freezing. Along with this, make sure air is able to flow freely around pipes that are most likely to freeze. For example, don’t stack boxes and bins around pipes in your basement and attic.
  • Let your faucet drip: If you’re concerned about a particular pipe freezing, open the faucet associated with it to allow for a slow drip. This keeps the water flowing, thus reducing the risk of freezing. It also eliminates pressure in the pipe, which protects against bursting.
  • Add insulation (or more insulation): Focus on pipes located in parts of your home without insulation. This is most likely in your attic, unfinished basement, crawl space, and underneath sinks. Adding insulation will keep the heat in and the cold out. You can also apply heating tape directly to the pipe to keep it warm.
  • Keep your doors open: Don’t close off your home during the winter months, as this reduces the ability for warm air to travel throughout. Along with turning up your heat (see above), open your interior doors. It’s particularly important that you don’t close off areas that are generally colder.

What to do About a Frozen Pipe

If you come across a frozen pipe, there are things you should and shouldn’t do.

Above all else, contact a licensed plumber to schedule an immediate appointment. Not only can they solve your problem, but they can also provide tips on how to avoid the same situation in the future.

In the meantime, do the following[iii]:

  • Leave your faucet on
  • Don’t attempt to use a flame to thaw a frozen pipe
  • Do attempt to use a hair dryer to slowly warm the pipe and thaw out the frozen portion

Tip: if a frozen pipe bursts, immediately turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. Doing so will minimize damage.

If you’re dealing with frozen pipes or want to protect against this, contact us for professional guidance. We can help put this concern to rest once and for all.

Sources:
[i] https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm/frozen-pipes.html
[ii] https://www.thebalancesmb.com/stop-freezing-pipes-2124982
[iii] https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/residence/dont-let-pipes-freeze-and-steps-to-take-if-they-do