Photo By Paul Tessier at Shutterstock
Avoid Expensive Plumbing Repair Situations By Caring for Your Outdoor Pipes and Valves
Freezing water is a very destructive force. Over the years, it can split huge boulders and it is also responsible for damaging plumbing both in the northern USA, where homeowners get used to preparing for winter freezes, and in the American South, where residents of Alabama, Florida, and even Louisiana are facing sub-freezing temperatures as they wake up, and quite possibly damaged pipes and plumbing repair bills. Freezing water expands and splits pipes, damages valves, and leaves plumbing cracked and ready to leak when the temperature rises and water starts flowing again. Prevention is a much cheaper alternative, and your bluefrog plumber can guide you in taking the right precautions.
Creating a Strategy for Protecting Your Pipes
Pipes and plumbing fixtures that are vulnerable to freezing are those that aren’t protected from the weather. They may be outside the house, or in an uninsulated wall or crawlspace. As the temperature drops, areas that aren’t served by your heating system, even if they are indoors, will be increasingly vulnerable to freezing and damage requiring plumbing repair. Of course, if your heating systems fails or is shut off, pipes throughout your home may become vulnerable to freezing as time passes. Your plumber can help you identify the risks in your home based on heating, insulation quality, regional climate, and occupancy patterns.
Exterior Pipes Are Most Vulnerable
Pipes exposed to the elements are affected quickly by temperature drops, and also by wind that helps lower their temperature by drawing away residual heat. These are the most likely areas to require plumbing repair even in warmer climates, since even infrequent cold snaps stand a chance of causing some damage. Even if a quick flow check after one night of freezing temperatures shows no problems, the inner diameter of the pipe may be obstructed by icing, leading to damage on subsequent nights as the pipe fills with ice. These exterior pipes should be shut off as winter approaches to avoid the need for plumbing repair, or alternatively carefully insulated or wrapped with heat tape.
Basement or Underneath the House
Homeowners with crawlspaces instead of basements may not realize how much of their plumbing is exposed to cold temperatures. Crawlspace plumbing repair may be needed to correct temperature-related plumbing problems underneath the house and even into the walls if spaces are not well insulated. Ask us about PEX piping as a risk reduction strategy, since it is less prone to freeze-related rupture than copper, and especially so if it is insulated. In addition, pipe insulation or the addition of insulation covering the underside of the floor may help, as well as finishing the sides of the crawlspace to contain heat and prevent air motion that may carry heat away.
Runs to the Garage
Pipes that travel across covered walkways or over sills can be invisible, but if you have water available in your garage, chances are it could freeze, even if both the house and garage are heated. Good insulation or heated covering can provide excellent protection. To avoid plumbing repair of these exposed pipes, your plumber can also add a shutoff valve with drain.
Unexpected freezes in warm climates can catch pool owners off guard. This is especially true for above-ground pools but can also affect in-ground pool plumbing. Many pool owners use a Freeze Protection Unit to automatically keep water warm and circulating in case of unexpectedly or unseasonably cold weather.
Fire Sprinkler System
When you’re thinking about all the pipes on your property that can freeze, you may not be looking up and thinking about the sprinkler system that might be protecting your garage, outbuildings, basement, or unheated home. Freeze damage may occur more slowly in these lines due to some protection, but eventually they could freeze and produce damage that becomes evident as temperatures warm and water leaks. Rather than need plumbing repair on this essential protection, it’s much better to make sure that all of your sprinkler lines are safe from freezing.
A simple upgrade that can avoid unexpected plumbing repair and even basement flooding, changing old hose connections for self-draining valves can be a wise investment. Your plumber can easily remove the existing manual valve that must be shut off and adjacent pipes drained before cold sets in, and replace it with a year-round valve that’s self-maintaining.
Vents and Sewer Lines
In addition to water lines that may freeze and require plumbing repair, obstructions in your plumbing and sewer vents can turn to total blocks when moisture and freezing temperatures combine with existing leaves or bird nests. It may not be obvious what’s wrong with your home’s plumbing when this happens, as clues could involve sewer gas smells or “burping” in drains, but freeing up these air vents can make a huge difference.
Older homes often have insufficient insulation in the walls, aging insulation that doesn’t do the job anymore, or even none at all. Even if the additional heating bill is acceptable or the property requires minimal heat during the winter such as a wood stove, pipes in the walls will be exposed to cold weather with rapid heat loss and freezing when the temperature drops.
Uninsulated walls are a common problem in seasonal or three-season properties that may be occasionally used in the winter. Many families have a ritual of draining the plumbing and pouring some kind of anti-freeze in the drain traps to avoid freezing in winter, especially when the property is unoccupied. Failing to do this before the first hard freeze can result in expensive plumbing repair costs.
Turn To bluefrog Plumbing + Drain to Help You Identify Outdoor Plumbing Freeze Risks
Our plumbers can help you identify plumbing risks, seen and unseen, that involve potential exposure to cold winter air. They’ll also help you choose an appropriate protection method for your pipes. Call bluefrog Plumbing + Drain for an inspection and pipe protection plan for your property.