Preventing Pipes from Freezing

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Old Man Winter is here and has been giving some of us quite a hard time since his arrival. Preparing for the inevitable is always a good idea to combat the problems Old Man Winter brings with him when he comes, but sometimes we get busy and wind up neglecting things. This can come back to bite us in the rear end, but since winter is far from over, there is still plenty of time for you to tackle cold weather tasks before they decide to tackle you.

Pipes that freeze are a major inconvenience in more ways than one. Frozen pipes not only mean no running water, but they can also bust, making quite a mess when water flow is restored. It is bad enough to have an outdoor pipe freeze and bust, but if one inside your home does the same, the time and expense it takes to repair the damage can set you back considerably.

To protect your pipes from freezing, insulating them goes a long way. There are many ways to do this, but before you start, clean any dirt and grime off of your pipes and be sure they are totally dry. To insulate, you can wrap them in fiberglass or foil insulation (wear gloves while doing this as well as eye protection, especially for overhead jobs). Simply cover the whole pipe and secure the insulation with duct tape. Having some overlap in your insulation is fine.

If you prefer to avoid the discomfort associated with handling fiberglass insulation, tubular sleeve insulation is much more contact-friendly. It comes in many sizes, so buy a size that corresponds with your pipe size and cut in lengths to fit. Place it on your pipe and secure it every couple feet with some duct tape or a zip tie. If you require two sections to cover a pipe, be sure to bond those sections together with tape so cold cannot pass through. Pay particular attention to elbow joints as they will be a little tougher to wrap with tubular insulation. Cutting and bending smaller pieces to conform to the appropriate shape and then adding tape will make these areas easier to handle. Also a good idea for corners is cutting the tubing at a miter angle to better join pieces meeting in corner spaces.

A little bit of insulation will go a surprisingly long way when it comes to doing battle with winter weather. Not only can it prevent your pipes from freezing, but it can keep your water temperature from dipping extremely low, thus enabling your water heater to have less work to do. Always be sure to wrap outside pipes as they are most susceptible to a freeze, but pipes underneath your house such as in a crawlspace or unheated basement need attention as well. The cost of insulating your pipes for the winter far pales in comparison to the cost you could incur if/when a pipe busts, so do not hesitate to get this job done if you are expecting a hard freeze. Remember that even if you live in a warm climate, your pipes are still at risk this time of year and only you can prevent a frozen situation from becoming an explosive one when those pipes bust.

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