During winter, many people plan vacations to warmer climates so they can enjoy a relaxing respite from the snow and ice. While travelers are enjoying the sand and surf, their homes may be in danger from extreme weather conditions.
According to the State Farm Insurance Company, frozen water pipes affect a quarter-million families each winter. Both copper and plastic pipes can freeze. State Farm notes that a single 1⁄8-inch crack in a pipe can result in up to 250 gallons of water leakage per day. Flood water can contribute to serious structural damage, mold and a host of other problems.
Water expands as it freezes, so pipes can be put under strain if the pressure from expanding water has nowhere to go, offers the American Red Cross. Pipes that tend to freeze most frequently include those exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool lines and water sprinkler systems. However, even pipes inside a home, such as those in unheated areas or those that run against exterior walls, can freeze.
To avoid returning from a relaxing winter escape to find a home in need of repair thanks to frozen pipes, homeowners can take these steps.
• Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces to help maintain higher temperatures within the areas where some water pipes may run.
• Pipes themselves can be insulated with special coverings or sleeves. Homeowners also can explore heat tape or wrap pipes in heat cables controlled by their thermostats.
• Disconnect outdoor hoses, and drain water from pipes leading to outdoor faucets. Turn off the indoor valve to shut off the water supply to the outdoors, but leave the outdoor bib in the “open” position to allow water to drip and relieve pressure should some freezing occur.
• The same technique can be applied indoors. A trickle of hot and cold water can keep pipes from freezing during extremely cold snaps of weather.
• Set the thermostat to a consistent temperature, ensuring that the temperature indoors will not drop dramatically overnight. The temperature should be no less than 55 F.
• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to reach under sinks and appliances.
• Check around the house for drafty areas that can contribute to colder temperatures in garages, basements and crawl spaces.
• Consider relocating pipes that are exposed to the elements to provide increased protection.
• Ask a neighbor to periodically check on the house to ensure that pipes are in good working order.
Homeowners who know where the main water shut-off valve in their homes is located and who act quickly can prevent serious damage should a pipe burst. In such instances, leaks can be contained and extinguished as quickly as possible.