While a plumbing problem isn’t a welcome event in any season, winter plumbing issues tend to be more critical and potentially more damaging. Nightly lows in our coastal region drop below 32 degrees about 90 days per year, with average overnight low temps during January of just 24 degrees. Freezing temperatures are the main factor that trigger winter plumbing problems, affecting both water-supply lines as well as certain appliances, particularly the home water heater.
Ice may form inside water-supply lines when outdoor temperatures dip into the 20s. As ice expands inside the pipe, internal pressure develops that may be sufficient to rupture the pipe. To reduce the odds of a frozen pipe rupturing, keep these measures in mind:
- Insulate exposed segments of water-supply lines in the house with foam pipe-insulation sleeves. Pay special attention to pipes running through unheated areas such as the crawl space and attic.
- Seal cracks or gaps in exterior walls that allow cold outdoor air to infiltrate the structure and, potentially, the contact pipes.
- If frigid temperatures dropping into the 20s are forecast, prevent winter plumbing damage by keeping the furnace thermostat at a setting of 65 degrees or above overnight. Closets and cabinets should be left open to allow warm air to circulate into the wall structure. Open faucets to trickle water overnight to relieve internal pipe pressure.
- If water flow from a specific tap or in a particular area of the house suddenly ceases during or after frigid temperatures, contact a plumber immediately. Don’t wait for a frozen pipe to thaw.
To protect your water heater from winter plumbing problems, have a qualified professional plumber install an insulating blanket on the unit. This helps prevent heat loss from the tank if the water heater is exposed to frigid temperatures. Also, make sure the water heater's inlet pipe (for cold water) and outlet pipe (for hot water) are both properly insulated.
For more advice about preventing winter plumbing issues, contact the professionals at Aggressive Mechanical Contractors.