Frozen Pipes 101

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This week’s article is more of a public service announcement than anything else. It is fitting of course with the weather we’ve been having this past week and I’ve received too many calls and emails to write about anything else. At least one third of Rockaway had a frozen pipe this week. Talk to your neighbors and you’ll see that is no exaggeration. It was record-breaking cold and with that kind of weather always comes the busiest weeks of any plumber’s year.

People have many misconceptions about frozen pipes. Some people operate under the notion that if their pipes haven’t froze in 15 years, it won’t ever happen. Every year that you’ve never had an issue, take it as luck as much as anything else. The wind is really what makes the pipes freeze; not the temperature outside. The only difference is that when the wind blows when it’s 10 degrees out, it’s a -5 degree wind chill. That will freeze your pipes in a hurry.

A few years back, everyone ran out and bought heat wraps without having the knowledge of installing them. Most people assumed that wrapping the pipes with the wiring and plugging it into an outlet were all you had to do. A few years went by with mild winters and then “pop.” It’s the only time they’ll realize that the heat wraps aren’t doing anything. The average homeowner just doesn’t realize what they are up against.

If you have gotten away with it so far this winter, here are the only ways to prevent a freeze up this winter season.

1. The classic drip. The single best tried-and-true method of preventing freezing water that even Mother Nature can’t seem to get around. In kindergarten we were all taught why the oceans can never freeze and the water moving through those pipes in your house is no different. Eat the water bill and drip every faucet and your shower on days that are colder than 20 degrees. If the wind is blowing off the ocean or the bay, leave them dripping through the night.

2. Wrapping your water lines. Like everything else, there is a professional way of doing this. First you need to by the proper insulation. Armor flex split insulation is preferred and works best. Make sure to cut pieces a little longer than the pipe and duct tape the seams. If you ignore even one inch of the pipe you are covering, it is like doing nothing at all in the first place.

3. Leave all doors open in your home to get the best airflow into every cabinet. Open cabinet doors underneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks.

If by some chance you were away or forgot to do these things and your pipes did freeze, leave your faucets in the open position, turn on that electric heater and hope for the best. Make sure you know where your main water shut off is so that if you see water falling from the ceiling, you can quickly get the water turned off and prevent any major water damage.

Hopefully the rest of the season isn’t as bad as these last few days. Happy 2018 and if you need a plumber for any reason, I recommend calling as soon as you think you might have a problem. As I tell all my clients, phone calls are free and sometimes can save you a lot of money.

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