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Tips to avoid pipes freezing in cold weather

Article originally sourced from Victoria Advocate

"Although South Texas does not have much of a winter, we must prepare ourselves to protect our pipes from freezing during cold weather. A little preparation can help save thousands of dollars worth of plumbing expenses.

When water freezes, it expands, and that causes pressure on the pipes. Metal and plastic pipes can break from the water expanding. The following pipes freeze more frequently: pipes that are exposed to severe cold weather and pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation. Water supply pipes that are in basements, attics, garages and kitchen cabinets can freeze easily. Freezing point for water is 32 degrees so it is important to keep your home above this temperature.

Pipes that are in basements, attics and garages need to be insulated to prevent pipes busting. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves. Adding insulation will help maintain higher temperatures around the pipes. Both hot-water and cold-water pipes need to be insulated. Pipe insulation can cost as little as 50 cents per linear foot. This little expense can prevent pipes from freezing. Try to keep the garage door closed to keep any extra cold air out. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes. Move any chemicals you may have in the cabinets to prevent children from playing with the chemicals and possibly consuming them.

When there are freezing temperatures outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet that is fed by the exposed pipes. Opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and ice blockage when freezing occurs. Seal any openings around the pipes to prevent cold air from entering around the pipes. Disconnect and drain any outside water hoses. Make sure exterior pipes are enclosed in 2-inch insulation sleeves. Store hoses inside to prevent damage to the hose.

If you are not going to be home, make sure you cut off the water at the cutoff valve. Make sure you leave your heating system on a low setting. Most renters are responsible for personal property damage caused by broken water pipes. Renters should check with the property owner to find out where the cutoff valve is and how to avoid pipe breakage.

If you have a water well, it is recommended to build an insulated well house around the above ground pump to help prevent freezing with a flood light inside. The well house does not have to be large; it can be the size of a dog house. Some pumps are underground and do not require additional insulation, but it is recommended to inspect the well hole to make sure it is sealed correctly. If your water source is a water well, it would be wise to have a generator on hand in case the electricity goes out because of freezing weather.

If you turn on the faucet and nothing comes out, you may have a frozen pipe. If you are going to try to defrost your pipe, do not use an open flame. You could damage your pipe or cause a fire. If your pipe bursts, you must turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. It would be in your best interest not to take any chances and call a plumber.

In the event that your pipes do freeze and burst, you can call your homeowners insurance company to see whether the damages are covered. The damages can be costly, so making that call can help you save unnecessary expenses. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a frozen pipe can lead to pipes bursting and cause more than $5,000 in water damage."

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