How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

While our Houston winters are mostly mild, the winter 2021 freeze proved that they could be brutal. When temps remain below freezing for a few hours, you must prepare your pipes to weather the conditions. Pipes that freeze can interrupt your routine, or they can cause a catastrophe in your home. 

Burst pipes following a freeze is a common issue and can cost thousands in damages. But there are things you can do. We encourage everyone to perform regular plumbing maintenance throughout the year, which is even more critical during the winter months. 

Here, the plumbing professionals at Howell Services share how to prevent frozen pipes this winter.

How Frozen Pipes Can Quickly Become Disastrous

Water expands as it freezes, placing extreme pressure on pipes. The common culprits include:

  • Outdoor hose bibs
  • Pool supply lines
  • Sprinkler lines
  • Unheated interior pipes
  • Interior pipes in the exterior walls of the home

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Let Your Faucets Drip

One of the easiest ways to keep your pipes clear is to drip your faucets. The constant water flow helps prevent ice from forming and freezing your pipes.

Open Some Doors, Close Others

Areas with water supply lines need to retain heat. If you have a water supply line in your garage, ensure your garage door stays closed. Keep your interior doors open to keep the warm air flowing through the house to keep pipes warm and frost-free. Open the cabinets under the sink to keep lines warm.

Heat Your Home Evenly

Keep your home's temperature consistent to prevent sudden freezes and keep air flowing evenly throughout your home. Keep your home set at 60 or higher to protect your pipes and prevent costly repairs.

close-up of frozen drainpipe, wall and blue sky

Drain Your Pool and Sprinkler System

When temperatures drop below 32 degrees, drain your pool and supply lines. These are often the first to freeze. Once one water source freezes, it tends to block water flow to other areas of your home. Wrap and insulate your sprinkler's pressure vacuum breaker, then turn off the water valve and drain your sprinkler system.

Unhook Outdoor Hoses

Uncouple your garden hoses from outdoor faucets to ensure no water can freeze in the hose bib connection.

Wrap Exterior Pipes

Wrap all exposed pipes from the chill. Remember to wrap and insulate pipes, hose bibs, and sprinklers. Use materials intended for insulating pipes like polyethylene foam insulation. Choose wisely; newspapers and household towels hold moisture and freeze right along with the pipes they are used to protect.

Insulate Interior Pipes

The pipes in the unheated areas of the home are most at risk for freezing. If the water lines inside the attic and interior spaces are not insulated, they are especially susceptible to freezing. Pipe insulation can be found at your local home supply store.

Take Care of Any Cracks

Seal all cracks and openings surrounding windows and doors to keep your home well insulated. Use weatherstripping or caulk to cover gaps around dryer vents or water pipes that lead from outside the house.

Use Appropriate Protective Coverings

Choose pipe sleeves, UL-listed heat tape, heat cable, or similar product on exposed pipes.

What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

Sometimes pipes do freeze, even when you've taken precautions to prevent this. If your water is only coming out as a trickle, your pipes may be frozen. If your pipes should freeze, try to run water through the pipe. The simple flow of water may help the pipes to thaw. Keep the faucets on at a trickle. 

You may be able to wait out the freeze as temperatures warm. Try a heat pack to work through blockages. But do not try to heat your pipes with a blowtorch. If a pipe has burst in your home, turn your water off at the main valve and leave the faucets in the on position. Your water shut-off valve is usually located where the water supply comes into your home or in a box near the street.

Call on the Professionals

Knowing how to prepare for a freeze and what to do after is an essential part of homeownership. Make sure you take these steps to protect your interior and exterior pipes and faucets to extend the life of your plumbing system. When you've discovered that your pipes have frozen, the best thing to do is to give Howell Services a call to handle the situation without causing more issues in your home. If your pipes have begun to thaw, call Howell Services for a whole-house pipe inspection to check for leaks. Give us a call at 281-232-5292 or schedule your appointment today.

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