How to Prep Your Home for Freezing Temps in Houston
First off, we want to point out that Houston homes are not designed, insulated and built to the same standards that homes further north that deal with snow and ice all winter are. It just generally isn’t necessary for our climate. More precautions are required here for than you might be used to if you used to live “up North.”
Our Master Plumbers recommend the following to protect your pipes:
1) Unhook your garden hoses from all outdoor faucets.
This eliminates the possibility of having water in the hose bib connection and freezing there.
2) Wrap your pipes to protect them from the cold.
Wind and cold air are what freeze pipes, and by properly covering up all exposed pipes from the wind you are taking the right steps to make sure your pipes don’t freeze up and burst. The wind chill is colder than the outside temperature and when it reaches a certain degree, it can destroy all unprotected piping.
All pipes, hose bibs, sprinklers, and the sprinkler pressure vacuum breaker that are exposed to the outside elements are vulnerable to freeze if not properly wrapped AND insulated. Many people wrap a towel or newspaper around an exposed pipe thinking that it will be enough to keep it from freezing, but this is not the case.
Using a towel to protect an outdoor pipe is a not a good idea because towels and newspapers can hold moisture and freeze directly on and around your pipe. Instead protect your plumbing with materials made specifically for pipe covering and insulating pipe, such as a polyethylene foam insulation wrap. The foam wrap will completely cover the exposed pipe and protect it from rain, wind, water, and cold air. Different sizes are available, and they can be purchased at your local hardware store.
3) Drain your sprinkler system.
After making sure that the pipes and the sprinkler's pressure vacuum breaker are wrapped and insulated, turn off the water valve to the sprinkler and drain the system to help prevent water from expanding and damaging vulnerable parts of the system. Be sure to drain the pressure vacuum breaker after turning of the water to release the water hidden there and help avoid costly repairs. For a video showing how to do that, click here.
4) Check your thermostat and heater.
Hopefully, your heater has already been inspected this season and had a recent tune-up and filter change. Flip your thermostat over to the heat setting, and do a quick test to make sure that it turns on properly now to prevent unexpected surprises.
5) Open your cabinet doors and leave faucets dripping.
The best way to keep your pipes from freezing is to turn on a water faucet and let the water slowly trickle. Doing so will keep the water moving inside the line which will make it nearly impossible to freeze. It is not as important to do this during the day if you are home and actively using water, but should be done at night when everyone in the home is sleeping.
Leave the cabinet doors beneath your sinks open so that the heat can circulate and keep your pipes warm easily. If your water heater is located in a pantry or laundry room that doesn’t have central heating, be sure to leave the door to these rooms open. Doing so actively pushes the heated air inside and will keep your water heater warm. This will decrease your chances of your water line freezing up.
What to do if your pipes freeze
If your pipes freeze, don’t panic – just follow these steps:
Walk around your house and turn on every faucet to try and determine which pipes are frozen. Keep your faucets on and allow the frozen water to slowly trickle out of the faucet. This will assist in the thawing process.
Be patient and wait a freeze out.
The best way to unfreeze your pipes and protect your plumbing is to give them time. It may take a few hours but eventually they will thaw and return to normal. The biggest mistake homeowners make is to try to quicken the process.
Do not use a torch (or a similar heat source) to try and warm it up. This can create stress problems and cause the pipe to crack. Once your pipe has frozen, the right thing to do is to wait it out and let it thaw naturally.
Call a plumber.
After your pipes have thawed, it is a good idea to inspect your whole piping system and to make sure the freeze didn’t cause any leaks. Until the pipes have thawed, it is nearly impossible to detect leakage or other damage so be sure to wait until once the pipes have thawed to perform the inspection. If you do see any leaks, call 713-730-2525 or book an appointment with a licensed plumber from John Moore to perform a professional inspection and address any issues.
Knowing what to do before, during, and after a freeze is an important of part of home ownership. By taking the right steps and protecting your pipes from the elements, you are extending the life of your whole plumbing system. Get prepping now, and stay warm and cozy during the cold weather ahead!
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