Preventing Pipe Problems
The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to keep them from freezing in the first place. Going through the following list and implementing necessary fixes should keep your pipes free of cracks, even in the severest weather:
Insulate outdoor faucets, pipes in unheated garages, and pipes in crawl spaces with materials such as rags or newspapers. Cover the materials with plastic and secure everything with string or wire. This is a quick fix, as there are better products for insulating and protecting your pipes, but a good one if a sudden cold snap catches you off guard.
Wrap foam pipe insulation around pipes. You can find this material precut to match the diameter of your pipe at hardware and home stores. Installing it is super easy: Just slip it around the pipe and seal the seams with duct tape.
Install electric heat tape. As previously discussed, be sure to buy the appropriate product for the type of pipes you need to protect, and follow installation instructions closely.
Seal up all small cracks and holes around doors and windows with caulk to keep cold air out. Choose a high-quality product that will last a while.
Remove all hoses from outside faucets. Drain and shut off the water supply to these fixtures.
Shut off and drain all underground irrigation systems. Depending on how your system was installed, you can probably shut it off yourself, but this won't drain it, as the water must be pumped out. You'll need to call a sprinkler installation and maintenance company for the latter.
During extremely cold weather, protect pipes by opening the highest faucet in your house and keeping a trickle of water running from it. This might seem wasteful, but the trickle doesn't need to be any bigger than a pencil lead. Why does this work? Running water has a lower freezing point than static water.
Let warm air caress cold pipes by opening cabinet doors below sinks located against an outside wall.
If you leave your house empty for long periods of time during cold-winter months,consider installing a leak-detection system. These devices do what their name implies—they monitor your plumbing for leaks.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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