Keep Your Pipes From Freezing With These Simple Tips
February 20, 2019
Winter has parked itself quite comfortably across the country and this weather is showing no signs of slowing down (or warming up). Whether you own a single-family home, condominium, townhome, apartment complex, modular home, or tiny home, you’ve got pipes that are at risk for freezing (some a higher risk than others). Continue reading for the data (including the dollars) and the advice to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter.
Knowing the Facts
Understanding when and how water pipes freeze and how much it will cost should lend some useful knowledge conversation. First, check out these stats1 to help lend some perspective.
Water & Freeze Data
- Water damage and freezing are the 3rd leading cause of property damage claims in the U.S.
- A burst water pipe can cause $5,000-$70,000 or more in damage
- The average insurance claim for a burst water pipe is $15,000
- The average loss per claim is $9,000
- 1 in 50 insured homes has a property damage claim each year due to water or freezing
- Common sources of water damage:
- Frozen pipes
- Sump pump failure
- Washing machines
- Leaky roofs
Frozen Pipes: When & How
Snowbirds beware! Homes in southern climates can be even more vulnerable to cold temperatures because they are typically built with water pipes outside of the insulation. Furthermore, permanent warm climate residents may be less acclimated to the dangers of winter and freezing pipes as the occurrences are much rarer. A general rule of thumb is that uninsulated, indoor water pipes will begin to freeze once the outdoor temperature reaches 20 degrees F or lower2. Water pipes in northern climates can typically withstand even lower temperatures before freezing but there are no absolutes.
In either climate, water pipes that are most vulnerable are those in unheated spaces. Those less obvious than outdoor spaces are basements, garages and attics. As for pipes contained in heated areas of the home, it’s important for residents to turn their heat down but not off (see the recommended setting below) while away, especially for long periods of time.
Why are frozen pipes a cause for concern?
When water freezes, it expands. If frozen water expands inside of your plumbing pipes, they are at risk of exploding. However, while the cause of the explosion can be from the expansion, it’s more commonly due to what happens downstream. Pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet is more likely to lead to an explosion and a water leak.
How to Prevent 1) Your Pipes from Freezing and 2) Damage from Frozen Pipes
Insulate. At only .50 cents per linear foot, insulation is an inexpensive solution to a very costly problem.
Keep the Heat On. Turning the heat off – or turning it too low – in the middle of winter shouldn’t be considered an option. The savings to your monthly utility bill isn’t worth the risk! Generally, keeping it above 50 degrees is a good rule of thumb, 60 to be even safer.
Turn the Water Off. Draining your water system removes the flow of water and makes it impossible for pipes to freeze.
Leave Your Cabinets Open. One thing worth doing while gone is to allow the heat to enter the kitchen and bathroom cabinets housing your water pipes.
Slow Drip Your Faucets. A slow drip of cold water keeps things moving and can prevent your pipes from freezing.
Install Leak Detectors. Environmental monitoring is a surefire way to catch a leak while you’re sleeping or away. Some residents are home and wide awake but unaware of leaks happening just a level below. Alerts come straight to your smartphone or other web-enabled devices via our smart home automation app so that you never miss a beat.
Use a Programmable Thermostat. Being able to control your home’s temperature from your devices removes the burden of remembering to set your home’s temperature each day or for longer trips. Easily adjust it to any temperature while you’re away.
Real Life Example
Even with the best of intentions and every precaution, accidents happen. Thermostats fail, pipes freeze and burst, sump pumps stop working, fridges and furnaces leak and air conditioner units break. Below is a situation where our environmental monitoring services saved a customer from thousands of dollars in damage!
On June 19, 2018, we received a supervisory alarm from a home in Madison, WI. Within 2 minutes, Dana Cox called to notify the customer, who called back to thank us as his sump pump had failed and he could have had costly water damage in his home. He was very grateful for our service and equipment working exactly as intended, as it has saved his property multiple times.
Don’t leave your home, family, and pets to chance this winter. Follow the simple tips outlined in this blog and let us know if you have any questions or frozen water pipe stories!
1 Environmental Stats from Resideo
2 Building Research Council at the University of Illinois