When a water line freezes it can burst and cause major water damage once the line thaws and water starts to flow freely. In just a few minutes the water can cause thousands of dollars in damages. This can present a problem if your house happens to be vacant as it can be an unforeseen event.
The pipes that are most at risk are those that are exposed to the elements. This includes any exterior pipes that may run alongside your house.
These include the following areas:
Lawn sprinkler lines
Outdoor hose hook ups
Swimming pool supply lines
This also includes water pipes that are inside in places such as the basement, crawl spaces, and attics which are not insulated.
Why a pipe bursts is due to the fact that when water freezes it increases in volume by up to 9%. This expansion happens with rapid force which will massively increase the pressure inside the pipe. The increase in pressure can cause the pipe to break at the weakest point of the line. This doesn’t necessarily happen at the point of the freeze, it can happen several feet away from the frozen area.
The first sign of pipes freezing will be a reduction in water flow at your faucets. If your water flow slows during a cold snap, or you think your pipes are vulnerable to freezing you should take action. Here are a few things you can do.
Keep the heat in your home set to a minimum of 55 degrees.
Close inside valves that supply water to outdoor hook ups.
Open up your outdoor faucets and let any residual water drain out and make sure to leave them open during the cold months.
Open doors on cabinets where you have plumbing. This will allow warmer air to help keep the pipes from freezing.
Keep your garage door closed to prevent pipes that may run through your garage from freezing.
Before winter you may want to inspect your homes piping to find problem areas. You will want to walk around the exterior for any pipes that may need insulating. This applies to both hot and cold water pipes as well as PVC pipes and copper pipes. You can purchase pipe sleeves or UL listed tape to keep your pipes insulated.
If you find yourself with a leak from a frozen pipe then turn off the water and call a professional plumber as soon as possible.