Many people find themselves trying to find tips on preventing frozen pipes when a chilling winter breeze blows past their windows. It’s human nature to act at the last moment, however; last-minute adjustments are often compromised, requiring rework, ultimately proving to be more expensive.
The Dangers of Frozen Pipes
"Prevention is better than cure" is an old and wise adage and it applies well to winter preparation and preventing frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can prove to be a nightmare especially when they burst. (Learn more in "Avoid a Busted Water Pipe by Taking These Simple Steps.")
Burst pipes can cause extensive damage to property and skyrocket the water bill. Since most of our systems work well in the warmer seasons, there is a tendency to be lulled into postponing necessary preparation for the difficult colder months. Even during good weather, there is a tendency for pipes to get clogged due to a variety of reasons. If such a clog already exists and remains unchecked, the problem can get complicated during the winter in addition to ice forming in the pipes.
It is a good practice to check the pipes periodically for blocks, clogs, buildup and tree root intrusion. Fortunately, there’s no need these days to worry about digging up your yard, all thanks to trenchless technology. Trenchless inspection methods such as video inspection using closed-circuit television (CCTV) is a great way to inspect pipes and pinpoint problem areas such as cracks, broken pipe sections, leaking joints, freeze wear, etc.
Once problems are detected, trenchless rehabilitation methods such as cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), pipe bursting, sliplining and mechanical spot repair can be utilized for repairing or replacing the damaged pipes. Trenchless technology eliminates the need for digging up the yard or tiles within the house, effectively reducing the cost of rehabilitation.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Before frost does havoc to the plumbing system, it’s a good idea to find a permanent solution that will ensure the winter season is not a nightmare of burst pipes and endless repairs. Check pipes using trenchless inspection method such as CCTV camera to detect damaged portions if any that exist in the system and replace damaged pipes using trenchless rehabilitation methods. Below is a list of tips on preventing frozen pipes before winter sets in.
Locate and Drain Outside Hoses and Bibs
Look for pipes that are located outside of the house and exposed to direct cold temperatures such as outdoor hose bibs, lines that supply water to swimming pools and water sprinkler systems.
A frozen water hose can burst a pipe inside the house, so to prevent that from happening, it’s best to drain, disconnect and store all external hoses before the freeze begins. Close inside valves that supply water to outdoor hose bibs and install a faucet insulator if the spigots are not frost proof. Drain outside hose bibs by leaving it open.
Locate Cold Spots Within the House
Look for areas inside the house that are isolated and unheated but have pipelines running through them, such as basements, crawl spaces, kitchen cabinets, attics and large closets that are built into the house as overhanging peninsulas, exposed on three sides to the outer section of the house.
Appropriate insulation methods such as heat tape or heat cables can be installed on these pipes. Its best to leave the attic, cabinet and bathroom doors open to ensure that warm air from the home is able to circulate into the hidden areas where pipelines run. If supply lines run in the garage, the garage door should be kept closed and exposed pipelines should be insulated.
Install Pipe Insulation
Where cold is moderate, foam pipe insulation works very well. However; for colder climates, it is better to wrap pipes prone to freezing with thermostatically controlled heat tapes that turn on automatically at certain temperatures.
Locate Air Leaks
Look for places prone to air leaks such as around window frames, dryer vents, etc. and seal them with caulk. A cold draft from a small hole can affect the temperature creating uncomfortable living conditions inside the house and can even cause pipes to freeze.
Keep a Constant Temperature
If you’re planning to beat the cold by going to a warmer place, make sure the heat is set at least to 55°F and all the cabinet doors with pipelines running through them are left open. This will allow warm air to circulate throughout the house. Ask the neighbors who are braving the harsh winter to check your home once a day to ensure the heater is working well and keeping a constant temperature.
Drip a Tap
Keeping the tap on to a slow constant drip may give you a higher water bill but it will be lesser than having to repair a busted pipe. The best way to do it is to start the hot faucet first to a slow drip and then start the cold faucet to a slightly faster drip.
Install a Recirculation Valve
Use a hot water recirculation valve that is convection-powered and circulates warm water continuously through the plumbing system. The valve is required to be fitted at a higher level than the water heater. The valve can be switched off when water circulation is not required.
RedyTemp is a device that has a temperature probe set inside the device that monitors the temperature of the water in the pipes and can be connected to an existing faucet supply pipeline. The desired temperature can be set in the device depending on the weather condition.
Trenchless Technology for Repairing Damaged Pipes
When you’re winter ready, you can settle down to a cozy season with no worries about burst pipes and frozen lines. If you do encounter frozen pipes there are some methods to thaw them. If your pipes burst, you’ll have no choice but to get them repaired as soon as possible. In case of a burst pipe, turn off all the supply valves and call for a professional plumber in your locality, preferably one who knows trenchless methods of repair and replacement.
Burst pipes or pipes that are worn due to freeze wear can be replaced using trenchless rehabilitation methods discussed below. Trenchless methods are non-destructive to the surface and can save a lot of money and time.
CIPP uses a resin soaked liner that is inserted into the defective pipe section from an entry point. After the required liner length is installed, hot air or water is allowed to fill the pipe to expand the liner until it fits into the old pipe. After curing, the pipe functions as good as new and has a long service life.
Pipe bursting can be used when the pipe needs to be replaced. A conical bursting head shatters the old pipe and pulls in a new pipe section to replace the old pipe.
Mechanical Spot Repair
Mechanical spot repair can be used to repair pipes that are structurally sound but have damage only at certain points. A grouting sleeve filled with grout is used to fix the damage till all cracks and annular spaces are sealed.
Sliplining is carried out by inserting a smaller diameter pipe into the existing pipe and sealing the annular spaces with grout.