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How to prevent pipes from freezing

In places across British Columbia, from Vancouver to Kelowna, the winter temperature can range from mild to freezing cold. And for those who live through the cold weather every year, comes the knowledge that frigid temperatures pose a threat to your home.

One of winter things that can cause the most damage is having pipes freeze and burst. Not only is this an expensive and inconvenient problem to fix, it can cause a huge mess. The good news is that there are also things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing during the winter months.

The Dangers of Bursting Frozen Pipes

The reason why pipes burst in the first place is because water expands as it freezes. Whether the pipes are hard plastic or metal, they are no match for expanding ice. The ice will place force against the pipes and will win almost every time. Therefore, it is important to follow these steps to stop the problem before it starts.

First things first: identify potential problem areas. In other words, find pipes that are exposed to fluctuating and freezing temperatures. Some of the most common places pipes freeze are:

  • Outdoor hose bibs
  • Water sprinkler lines
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets
  • Swimming pool supply lines

Basically any pipes and supply lines that run even partially along the exterior of your home or cold parts of your house are in the most danger of freezing and bursting. These are the ones that need your attention.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Now that you’ve located which pipes are exposed to the cold, what should you do about them?

First, drain the water that might be sitting around, especially in things that won’t be used during the winter. This includes things like outdoor hoses used in gardening and swimming pools.

To drain outdoor water systems, turn off the inside valve and then open the outdoor valve until the line is emptied. If you have garden hoses laying around, neatly roll them up and store inside until the spring.

In the case of pipes and lines that are used year round but still exposed to the winter chill, it is a good idea to insulate them. You can buy foam insulation sleeves that you can measure and cut to fit the exposed pipe. These pipe insulators are like little sweaters for your pipes and will keep the water that runs through warm enough to avoid freezing.

Now that your pipes are protected, there are further things you can do in the case of a cold snap. For example, if the weather is going to dip far below zero for an extended amount of time, you might want to keep the taps slightly open so that the water runs at a small, steady stream. The continual flow of water means that the water isn’t just sitting in the pipes and it will prevent it from freezing.

Again, and especially when there is a long cold snap, it is a good idea to keep the temperature inside your home at a constant warm-ish level. Especially if you are going away on a holiday or leaving town for a few days, leaving the heat on in your home will help prevent the pipes from freezing.

What you can do to thaw frozen pipes

If, unfortunately, the pipes have frozen but haven’t yet burst, there are things you can do to help thaw them out.

Perhaps you have noticed that your normally high pressure has been reduced to a drip. You can assume that your pipes are partially frozen. In this case, turn your tap on or open the faucet so that the water is running. The flowing water will help to eventually thaw the ice and you should notice the pressure return.

If you can identify the part of the pipe that is frozen, you might be able to melt the ice by taking a hair dryer to it or wrapping it in a heating pad. Do not attempt to thaw the ice with an open flame like a blow torch or a lighter, this will likely cause more harm than good.

In any case, if you are unsure of how to protect the pipes in your home from freezing or you suspect that you might be dealing with a frozen pipe, you can always call a professional. At Lillie Family Heating, we have fixed many frozen pipe problems in homes from Vancouver to Kelowna. And believe us when we say, prevention is best. A burst pipe can cause a lot of damage to your home.

But, don’t worry! With these simple steps and keeping a cautious eye on the temperature, you will be able to protect your home. Good luck and don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.