Winter Is Coming – Stop Frozen Pipes Before They Start!


It’s that time of year again here in Buffalo.  The weather is getting colder, and the leaves are starting to change.  Before you know it, we will be  under 2 feet of lake effect snow coming off Lake Erie!  Taking some time to prepare your plumbing before winter hits could save you a lot of headaches, and a LOT of money!

If you have a vacant property, it is a good idea to winterize your home prior to the snow actually arriving.  There are a lot of contractors that will provide this service, and the cost of the service certainly outweighs the cost of the damage that could result from not having a property properly winterized.  For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on occupied properties.

Did you know that a burst pipe can cause over 250 gallons a day of water loss?  If you have a 40 gallon hot water tank, this would be the equivalent of filling and draining that tank 6.25 times… IN ONE DAY!

tube insulationFrozen pipe prevention is a fairly simple task, requiring a few hours of labor and materials that you can find at any hardware store.  You’ll need to get pipe tube insulation – this comes in many lengths and diameters.  Measure the outside diameter of your pipes before you head to the store.  The inside diameter of the insulation should match the outside diameter of your piping to ensure a proper fit.  In addition, you will want to get a roll of pipe insulation tape to run along the seams of your insulation.  Installation is very straight forward.  The insulation should come with a full depth cut running along the length of the tube – just slide the insulation over the pipe and seal it with the insulating tape.

Ideally you’ll want to insulate all of your pipes.  However, the pipes most prone to freezing are those along exterior walls and in crawl spaces, as well as floors and ceilings.  If your basement is especially cold, you may want to consider insulating all the pipes just to prevent a freeze.  If severe weather is in the forecast, and you think a pipe freeze may be a possibility, you can turn the faucets on just a trickle.  The movement of the water should help prevent freezing.

Outside the house, be sure to fully drain and detach any garden hoses.  Outdoor faucets can be covered with an insulated faucet sock, which run between $10 and $15 at most hardware stores.  You can also use a piece of home insulation in a pinch – just be sure to cover the entire surface area of the faucet up to the wall, and be sure to secure it with a strong, weather resistant tape.  This may not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, but it beats a frozen pipe.

So, you didn’t insulate your pipes and now you have a frozen pipe?  There are a couple options at this point.  The first option is call a plumber!  Frozen pipes can burst if they aren’t heated correctly, and if you feel unsure, you may want a professional to handle the issue.  However, if you wish to do it yourself, read on!  First and foremost, do not use a blow torch to heat the pipe! The rapid heating action from the torch can cause the water to boil, which can lead to a burst pipe!  Instead, use a hair dryer.  Point it at the frozen area, and move back and forth along the pipe until the ice melts and the water flows freely again.

Frozen pipes can be a real pain, especially in Buffalo.  Armed with a little bit of knowledge, you can take preventative measures to help stop a problem before it starts.

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