Every weather season has its share of downsides, but the winter is particularly bad. Not only do you have to contend with the slippery conditions caused by snow and ice, but you also have to be mindful of frigid conditions, which are not only uncomfortable, but can be downright damaging – especially if you’re a homeowner.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, severe winter weather is the third-largest cause of insured catastrophe losses annually. Between 1993 and 2012, in fact, more than 7 percent of all insured catastrophe losses stemmed from winter storm claims.
Chief among these each year are frozen pipes. Every year, approximately 250,000 homeowners wake up to find that their water pipes have frozen over. Fortunately frozen and/or burst pipes are covered under most homeowners insurance plans, but no one wants to have to go through the inconvenience of having them replaced after they’ve burst.
There are a number of ways you can prevent pipes from ever getting too cold. Here are a few tips:
It’s never been easier to stay on top of the weather, thanks to 24-hour news and the Internet. So you’ll definitely want to keep abreast of what the temperature is going to be like. If it’s in the single-digits or below, frozen pipes are a real risk.
‘Drip’ your home’s faucets
One of the best ways to prevent pipes from freezing over is ensuring that there’s something in the lines at all times. When the temperatures dip into the single-digits or below, crack the faucets slightly so a slow trickle dribbles out.
Maintain stable internal temperature
To save money on heating, you may be bundling up with extra clothing rather thank cranking up the thermostat. But be careful not to let the air temperature dip too low. An internal temperature at or below 55 degrees Fahrenheit increases the risk that pipes will freeze.
Insulate water pipes
Hopefully your home’s water pipes are already insulated. But if they aren’t, it’s a good idea to get this taken care of. If you go to your local hardware store, a sales associate should be able to help you determine what material is best to use, whether it be heating tape, pipe sleeve, or some other form of insulation.
Lock out cold weather
Of course, the biggest threat to your water pipes is the outdoors. If your water system’s pipes are near drafty windows or open crevices, make sure you seal them off.
What to do if your pipes freeze
Even if your water pipes do freeze, all is not lost. You may be able to salvage them if the freezing was limited or if you caught it early on. The most likely place that the freezing happened is near to your home’s foundation. The Red Cross suggests that once you isolate the location, use an electric hair dryer to thaw it out. You may also be able to set up a space heater that applies constant warmth. Just make sure that it’s not set up next to something that’s flammable, like furniture or anything else with fabric material.
How to prevent it from happening again
After you’ve fixed your frozen pipes, you want to make sure that it never happens again. For a more comprehensive approach, you may want to get in touch with a professional, who can relocate your pipes so that they’re not as vulnerable to the cold. Or, if you have some experience with home maintenance, you may want to add insulation to your home’s water system if this hasn’t been done. Otherwise, proactive measures like the ones described above should help keep your home’s water pipes roasty-toasty.
The American Red Cross has other tips for frozen pipe prevention.