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Three Ways To Protect Pipes Against Freezing This Winter


Don’t Let the Holiday Festivities Be Ruined By a Frozen Pipe!

Winter is nearly here, and with it come blizzards, icy roads, and bitterly cold days - and even colder nights. Families can hunker down inside and crank up the thermostat to keep the chill away, but the effects of a Midwestern winter are not to be thwarted so easily. The biting cold can find other ways to infiltrate a home’s walls, and the water supply pipes are a perfect candidate. 

When the water in a supply pipe freezes, the resulting ice expansion can rupture the pipe and turn it into a fountain. The sudden and massive inundation of water can cause all kinds of problems, so homeowners need to protect themselves and their property from such a scenario. Here are three proven methods to keep a frozen pipe from raining on the holiday parade.

Make Sure Pipes Have Adequate Insulation

When it comes to guarding against freezes, insulating the pipes is the best place to start. The good news is that not every inch of pipe in the home needs extra attention - many sections of pipe are already well protected due to their location in the house, such as those running through floors or interior walls. It’s the more exposed stretches of pipe that require additional protection - those in attics, cellars, crawlspaces, and perimeter walls.

Adding standard insulation to the surrounding area isn’t a bad idea and may be sufficient in some cases, but it’s almost always best to insulate the pipes themselves. Pipe insulation is inexpensive and can be installed without much hassle in most situations. The most common types include foam tubing and fiberglass/aluminum tape, both of which are highly effective and unobtrusive. Still, other more expensive options like electric-powered heat cables are available.

Leave Water Running at a Drip

One simple way to ward off pipe freeze is to turn on faucets to a drip. Many people are skeptical about this one and think it sounds like a phony remedy from an old wives’ tale, but there’s a reason it still gets passed around as common wisdom - it works.

Supply pipes are always full of water and always under pressure, so when freezing occurs, the pressure inside the pipe builds as the ice expands and adds to the stress on the pipe wall, contributing to the eventual rupture. Running water at a drip or a very slight trickle relieves the pressure and keeps the water flowing constantly, so it can’t stick around long enough to freeze.

Maintain a Warm and Consistent Indoor Temperature 

The final method is also the easiest and most convenient one - simply keep the house nice and toasty. If the furnace or heater is pumping warm air throughout the home, some of that heat will naturally radiate to the pipes in the walls, floors, and ceiling. For this to work, the thermostat should never be allowed to fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Easy enough to manage while everyone’s home (that’s pretty chilly for an indoor temperature in the winter), but it’s just as important when the house is empty.

This method won’t do much for pipes outside the home’s insulated envelope (attics, crawlspaces, etc.) and is not a substitute for proper insulation, but it certainly helps keep the rest of the pipes safe. Homeowners concerned about pipe freeze should ask their plumber about winterizing their home - defending outdoor plumbing like hose bibs and irrigation networks involves more extreme measures and may require a professional’s assistance.

About Knight Plumbing, Inc.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Knight Plumbing has been serving their community with pride for over 25 years. As an award-winning family business with consistent 5-star customer reviews, they are committed to safety, professionalism, quality workmanship, and outstanding service. They provide up-front pricing, written warranties on parts & services, and a total satisfaction guarantee on every service. Give them a call for burst pipe repair in Milwaukee.