The freezing Idaho winters can be a major issue for your home’s plumbing and pipes. Frozen pipes are an especially common problem for mobile homes since they don’t have a concrete foundation, but any type of home is at risk for the pipes freezing if certain precautions aren’t taken. The biggest risk if any of your water lines freeze is that they’ll eventually rupture. Once the pipe begins thawing out, it will quickly start flooding the surrounding areas and potentially cause hundreds or thousands of dollars of water damage. This is why you should always shut off your water if you ever have a pipe freeze as it will help to minimize the damage that can occur. This guide will explain what steps you should take to help keep your pipes from freezing so that hopefully it’s not an issue you’ll ever need to worry about.
Make Sure You Have Frost-Proof Hose Bibs
Installing frost-proof hose bibs is a great investment that can go a long way toward keeping the pipes that supply your hoses from freezing. Standard hose bibs just barely stick inside the wall of your house. This means that the pipe that feeds the hose bib is located right next to the foundation wall where the air temperature can still be freezing cold in the winter. Frost-proof bibs are typically around a foot long, which means the pipe that feeds them is further away from the foundation where the air stays warmer.
You can easily check whether or not your hose bibs are frost proof simply by looking at them. On a frost-proof bib, you’ll see a cap on top of the pipe just past where it exits the house that should be labeled “anti-siphon.” If the bib doesn’t have this cap, you can be fairly certain it isn’t frost proof. You should have it replaced before winter.
Shut Off the Water and Fully Drain All Hose Bibs
Even frost-proof hose bibs can still easily freeze if you don’t make sure to shut the water off and fully drain them. If you don’t take these steps, the entire bib both inside and outside of the house will remain full of water and will almost certainly freeze. When this happens, the pipe inside your home may also freeze and break.
If you go inside your basement or crawl space, you’ll see a valve on the water line where each bib comes into the house. Closing this valve will ensure that water no longer flows through the pipe. However, water will still remain in the bib itself so you also need to turn it on so that it can fully drain. Once it is drained, you then need to fully close the bib to prevent cold air from traveling up through the pipe.
Check That Your Pipes Are Properly Insulated
If your home has a crawl space, you need to make sure that all of the pipes in this area that run underneath your floor are properly wrapped with foam pipe insulation. Insulation protects the pipes from the cold air surrounding them and basically acts like a blanket that prevents the air from reaching the pipes. It is important that the insulation is in good condition and not starting to crack or degrade, and there also can’t be any gaps in the insulation where cold air can get through.
If your home has a basement, you may also want to consider having the pipes near the foundation walls insulated. This isn’t always necessary but it will add an extra layer of protection to help keep them from freezing.
Seal up Air Leaks
You should also visually inspect the foundation walls in your basement or crawl space for any cracks or gaps and feel along them for any places where cold air is getting inside. Any air leaks you find should be fully sealed with silicone or caulk to keep the cold air out. You also want to make sure to close or block off any crawl space or else lots of cold air will get inside. Sealing up any air leaks will also help to keep your home warmer in the winter so your heating bills aren’t as high.
Leave Your Thermostat Set to 60 Degrees or Higher
Even if you try to seal up all of the leaks as you can, some places in your house will typically remain much colder than the temperature your thermostat reads. The places where this happens are often near the foundation walls in your basement. If you ever set your thermostat too low and your heating system doesn’t run often enough, the temperature in these areas can quickly drop to the point where your pipes are at a high risk of freezing. The best way to avoid this is simply by leaving your thermostat set at 60 degrees or higher.
Take Extra Precautions to Protect Against Extreme Cold
All of the previous steps we’ve mentioned should normally be sufficient to prevent your pipes from freezing in most cases. However, it’s a good idea to take a few extra precautions when extremely cold temperatures are in the forecast. One of the best things you can do to help protect your pipes from freezing in extreme cold is to slightly open all of your faucets so that a trickle of water continuously flows. When your faucets are closed, the water trapped inside the pipes can eventually start to freeze. Moving water is less likely to freeze than standing water, and opening up the faucets will keep water flowing through the pipe constantly so there is a greatly reduced chance of it freezing.
Another thing that can help is to leave the cabinet doors underneath your sinks open. If the doors are closed, hot air won’t be able to get inside the cabinet. This can lead to the air inside the cabinet potentially getting cold enough for the water in the pipes to freeze. If you know the pipes underneath your kitchen or bathroom sink are prone to freezing, you may want to use a fan to blow warm air into the cabinet or even set a space heater just in front of the cabinet so it keeps the pipes warm.
Winterize Your Plumbing Before Going on Vacation
Fully winterizing a plumbing system takes more time and is something that you’ll need to have performed by a plumber, but it can be well worth it if you plan on being gone for an extended time during the winter. Most of the steps we’ve mentioned rely on your heating system still running and your home staying warm.
If your heating system suddenly stopped working while you were away, there is an extremely high chance your pipes will freeze and you’ll come home to find your home flooded and everything coated in ice. The best way to prevent this is to have a plumber fully drain and blow all of the water out of your pipes. As obvious as it may sound, if there’s no water in your pipes, they can’t freeze and break.
If you need any help ensuring your pipes don’t freeze this winter, Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air has you covered. We can install frost-proof bibs on your outdoor fixtures and insulate your pipes as needed. We can also help if you need any plumbing installation or repair services. We are the top choice for plumbing, electrical, heating, and air conditioning services in the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley areas, so contact us for any of your home’s needs.