When the winter months hit, you need more than just winter tires to get through the season. You may be one of many Calgary homeowners who are prepared for the winter months: taking the sweaters out, making sure the cocoa is stocked, maybe even winterizing your windows to keep the chill outside where it belongs.
But… Did you remember to check your pipes? If you haven’t, it’s time for you to prepare your plumbing system for winter months. In this article, we discuss the red flags of frozen pipes, what to do, and when it might be time to call a professional plumber.
Water Flow: One of the first signs people notice is that their water pressure has dropped significantly. If you turn the tap on and water is just dribbling out – it may be linked to frozen pipes.
Bulging Pipes: Because water expands when frozen, your pipes may have a noticeable bulge in them.
Gurgling: If you are hearing gurgling sounds, banging or clanging in your pipes, it’s possible that sound is ice travelling through your pipes. When ice begins to form, it won’t be long before your water pipes are completely blocked.
Frost/Condensation: If you notice a pipe that’s covered in a layer of condensation or visible frost, ( you may also notice small cracks), your pipes are most likely frozen.
Remember that once your pipes are frozen, if it seems like they are about to burst, you may want to cut off the main water supply to prevent water damage… unless you’ve been trying to install a swimming pool in your basement.
All pipes are susceptible to freezing; PVC, PEX, Copper, poly b, kitec piping and other plastics are all at risk. However, copper pipes are most likely to burst when frozen, while PVC and other plastic pipes don’t always burst.
The cause is simple – they got too cold. When temperatures drop below 13℃, pipes that are not properly insulated or maintained begin to freeze. What causes it to burst is the expanding ice and added water pressure. Frozen pipes are bad news and could cost you thousands in repair costs if it turns into a burst pipe. When pipes freeze, they don’t instantly burst, so catching it quickly and acting fast is important.
Ideally, it’s best if your pipes never freeze at all. In the city of Calgary, that may seem like a bit too much to ask for, but with a little know-how and patience, you can prevent the inconvenience of freezing pipes. Start by identifying pipes that are at risk of freezing. You’re looking for pipes that run through colder areas of your house, like the basement, garage, crawl space, or attic. Pipes in these areas will require insulating.
1. Insulate Your Pipes
You might want to consider buying products that are specially made to insulate pipes, such as pipe sleeves. We’ve also seen DIY insulation jobs that use newspapers, although we’ve found that to be less effective.
2. Apply Heating To Open Pipes
A simple option is to wrap heating tape around the exposed pipes and plug it in (remember to unplug it in the summer months!). Do not use heat tape if there is insulation, or on pipes in walls, ceilings, or floors.
A temporary solution for when you’re dipping dangerously into freezing temperatures; a space heater can be a great alternative (be careful, do not leave it unattended for long periods of time. If your frozen pipe bursts, it can be a fire hazard).
3. Seal Cracks & Crawl Spaces
This will prevent hot air from escaping! We also suggest insulating your attic, it helps regulate your temperature and will make your pipes less susceptible to condensation that can cause dripping and mould damage.
4. Constantly Heat Your Home
Remember that pipes will begin to freeze when the temperature drops below 13℃. Your thermostat will only measure the temperature where the sensors are. So areas like cold basements may be several degrees colder than the temperature of the rest of the house. This is usually where we find frozen pipes in the Calgary area.
5. Close Your Garage Door
Pipes frequently run through the garage, which isn’t great when your garage is probably not well insulated and has a concrete floor. This will also help with your energy bills!
6. Allow Your Faucet To Drip
When it is especially cold out, allow just a slight trickle of water to run out of one or two faucets. This keeps the water moving through your plumbing system and running water is less likely to freeze.
7. Keep Interior Doors Open
The cabinets or closets that have pipes tend to be colder than the main room temperatures. Keeping those open will make sure the heat from your furnace makes its way there too!
If these DIY methods make you nervous or your pipes are still freezing, you can request a quote for plumbing repair and our Knight plumbers will come and give you a hand! We’re a family-run business with over 40 years of plumbing, heating and cooling experience. Request a quote today!