How to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes
You can prevent frozen water pipes.
If you have a hot
water boiler heating system with baseboard heating
as opposed to air handlers, you should take
precautions to avoid frozen water pipes.
If you live in a cold region where the temperature
falls many degrees below zero you should be
especially concerned on how to prevent frozen water
pipes. A frozen water pipe in your heating system
or the water supply system can cause extensive
damage to your house.
I happened to talk to a plumber friend yesterday
who was maxed out doing service calls for frozen
water pipes; most were associated boiler heating
systems. The cause of the frozen pipes was the
result of the ambient temperature dropping to15
degrees below zero in recent days. Nearly all the
freeze ups were the result of poor insulation where
the plumbing ran through a cold space in the wall
or in a crawl space.
Frozen water pipes occur as the water freezes
causing the thin walls of the copper water pipe to
expand beyond the design limits. Pipe and pipe
fittings used in most hot water heating systems is
referred to “Type M Copper Water Pipe” In most
cases it’s a ¾ inch diameter pipe that has a wall
thickness of only 0.032 inches. It is usually
identified by a red line on the side of the pipe
and referred to as “red pipe”. Although it expands
quite rapidly as hot water flows through it, it
will not burst under normal operating boiler
pressure. It will burst if the water freezes
because the thin wall can only withstand
approximately 1800 pounds per square inch.
What actually occurs is that the pipe splits along
its length from the expanding frozen water. As the
pipe splits open the water leaks causes a real mess
to deal with. When a hot water system pipe freezes
the entire section of pipe is replaced due to the
excessive expansion although the whole section may
not appear to be damaged.
Many homes that use a boiler for heat also use air
handlers where the hot water is converted to force
hot air. The use of air handlers avoids extensive
use of copper hot water pipes. Air handlers are
usually positioned in the basement where there is
little concern for frozen water pipes even if there
is a power outage.
Tips on How to prevent frozen water pipes:
Insulate all water pipes that are in any area that
is susceptible to freezing. Pipe insulation is
inexpensive and easy to install. Nearly every home
improvement supply center sells pipe insulation in
If a water pipe passes through a cold spot rap it
with heat tape and keep it plugged in during the
Check basement doors and bulkheads for air leaks
and pack insulation around any suspect area.
If a water line runs in an outside wall have it
moved or move it yourself.
Outside water outlets usually have anti freeze shut
offs whereby the spigot is outside but the internal
shut off valve is located internal to the plumbing
and extends to the inside of the wall. If the
outside water outlets are the anti-freeze type
either replace them or install a shut off on the
line inside the heated space or basement.
Disconnect outside water hoses as the trapped water
will freeze and split the outside spigot even
though it is an anti-freeze spigot.
If the kitchen or bathroom is on an outside wall,
leave the cabinet or vanity doors open on very cold
nights so the area can absorb from the house.
If you have a frozen pipe that has not failed, turn
up the room heat or apply heat with a heat lamp. Do
not over heat a frozen water pipe as the water will
begin to boil causing excessive pressure and
rupture the pipe.
If you do have a frozen water pipe immediately turn
off the water to mitigate the damage.
By following these tips you can prevent frozen
water pipes. If you suspect that a water pipe may
freeze take immediate action to prevent it.
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