As cold weather approaches there are some things that homeowners and associations should consider to be proactive to avoid frozen pipes and potential water damage.
PREVENTING FROZEN PIPES
Every winter, homeowners suffer from the destruction, frustration, and the financial burden caused by freezing and bursting water pipes. Freezing can occur in any water pipe exposed to temperatures of 32ºF or below. As freezing water expands, it generates enough pressure to burst pipes and fixtures. When frozen pipes thaw, flooding can occur and cause extensive damage. Pipes in garages, attics, crawl spaces, and unheated rooms are particularly susceptible to freezing. Pipes in exterior walls may also freeze when temperatures fall below freezing during severely cold weather.
During the winter, taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid the frustration, destruction, and expenses caused by frozen pipes. Access Management Group recommends you use this guide to help prevent frozen pipes and protect your investment.
DID YOU KNOW?
An eighth-inch (three millimeter) crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons (946 liters) of water per day. Both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes can burst.
BEFORE COLD WEATHER HITS
Know Where Your Shut-Off Valve Is – All responsible household members should know where the home’s shut-off valve is located prior to needing it for an emergency. Every home should be equipped with a shut-off valve. Generally a stop and drain valve is located on the service line on your side of the water meter, near the house. If you live in a condo or townhome, you may have a shut-off at your water heater or where your water line enters your unit. Unfortunately, not all units have a main shut-off. If you have one, locate it so you can shut off the water if a break occurs.
Insulate Pipes and Faucets – If you have pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage or a crawl space under the house, insulate them with items such as pipe wrap, foam jackets, or heat tape. Insulating products are available at local hardware stores or building supply retailers. Follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions. If you have questions, call a professional for help. Simply insulating the pipes will help during a short cold spell but a long term cold spell will ultimately cause the unheated pipe to freeze even if insulated. If you are concerned about this potential, we recommend installing heat tape under the insulation against the water pipe. Install insulated covers on your exterior hose bibs. Again during extreme cold, these could still freeze due to a lack of a heat source. Shut off hose bibs from the inside, if you have that capability and if a cut off is available. This is the surest way to avoid these from freezing. Remember to drain the line outside after turning off the valve.
Seal Off Air Leaks – With cold winter winds, a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to freeze a pipe. Look for leaks around dryer vents, electrical wiring, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold air out. Don’t cover or block air vents from your water heater or furnace; proper ventilation is important for those items.
- Set the automatic irrigation controller to the “Off” setting.
- Turn off water to the irrigation system at the stop and drain valve. Many homes have separate stop and drain valves for the outdoor water supply. Make sure the different valves are labeled so they are easy to identify.
- Drain all water out of any irrigation components that might freeze. Some systems may drain automatically. The system may not drain completely based upon how it is installed but draining as much water as possible is a positive action.
- Disconnect garden hoses from hose bibs.
Shut Off and Drain Indoor Plumbing to unheated buildings such as pool houses.
- Shut off water using the stop and drain valve. Use caution to make sure this valve has been completely turned off. If this valve isn't closed correctly, the water will continue to feed the building and/or flow out the drain valve if the main valve is not properly closed.
- Drain all water out of the pipes by opening every faucet until the water stops running. After the water has stopped, turn off the faucets. If water does not stop, go check the stop and drain valve to make sure it’s shut off all the way.
- Flush toilets.
- Pour biodegradable anti-freeze into all toilet bowls, toilet tanks, and sinks to displace water in the drain pipes. Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions and always store in a child and pet proof location. RV antifreeze is the best product to use since regular automobile antifreeze can damage toilet wax rings and other components of the plumbing system.
- Open your hot water drain valve, usually located at the low point of your hot water pipes. If you choose to drain your hot water tank, turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater. If you do not turn off the water heater, it will continue to try and heat the water and cause your heater to malfunction. This will result in the potential for fire and total replacement of the water heater.
- Not all buildings are designed to be totally drained and there is a possibility that there could still be water left in the piping system that could freeze. If you turn the water back on after winterization, check all plumbing to ensure you do not have a broken pipe. If a pipe is broken, turn the water back off and call a plumber or the AMG emergency line immediately.