The cold weather that winter brings can be troubling in more ways than one. Aside from making you shiver and dread walking outside, below-freezing temperatures can pose a threat to your facility – particularly to your water pipes.
When the temperature drops, the chance of your water pipes freezing increases. Frozen pipes are prone to bursting, which can cause significant water damage to your facility. Even a small crack in a pipe can cause more than 200 gallons of water to spill through the pipe each day.
Read on for actions you can take before and during extra-cold spells to help prevent frozen pipes. Additionally, if you do discover frozen pipes, here are a few tips that can help you take care of them.
Before the Temperature Drops
If freezing temperatures are forecasted, take these preventative measures:
- Remove and drain outdoor hoses.
- Drain water from water sprinkler lines.
- Seal any leaks that may be present on or near pipes.
- Inspect your facility for other unheated areas where water supply lines might be located (basements, attics, crawl spaces, garages and under cabinets). Both hot and cold water lines in these areas should be insulated. Consider installing insulating products such as a pipe sleeve, UL listed heat tape, heat cable or a similar material.
During a Cold Spell
When frosty air hits, continue to follow these actions to help prevent your pipes from freezing:
- Open any cupboards and cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature during both the day and night.
- Keep your thermostat above 55°F at all times.
- If temperatures get extremely cold, let cold water drip or trickle from faucets.
- Turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls at night to allow a small trickle of water through. If the faucets are not used often, do this during the day too.
If a Pipe Freezes
Hopefully you will be able to spot a frozen pipe and fix it before it bursts. One sign that might suggest you have frozen pipes is when only a trickle of water comes out when turning on the faucet. If you have a frozen pipe, here are some actions you can take to prevent it from bursting:
- Locate the frozen area of the pipe.
- Keep the faucet open. As the frozen pipe melts, water will begin to flow and flowing water will continue to help melt the frozen pipe.
- Apply heat to the frozen area of the pipe using an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater, or by wrapping the pipe in towels that have been soaked in hot water. DO NOT use a blowtorch, propane heater or any other open flame device. These could cause the pipe to explode.
- Continue to apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
- Check other faucets in your building for more frozen pipes. Chances are, if one pipe freezes, others may freeze too.
If you think you have a frozen pipe but are unable to locate the frozen area, call a licensed plumber to check it out.
If a Pipe Bursts
Act quickly and carefully when taking control of the situation:
- Shut off the water to your building immediately to prevent additional damage.
- Take proper precautions to avoid electrical shock from being in or near standing water.
- Call your plumber.
- Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions.