Winter is upon us. With the thermometer regularly dipping below the freezing point, it’s time for Calgarians to take precautions to fight against an issue that affects many households this time of year. It’s a problem that can cause more than inconvenience: every year Calgary homeowners incur unexpected costs due to this relatively avoidable problem.
Of course, we’re talking about frozen pipes. Every year we get many, many calls from homeowners dealing with this problem, and while it’s one thing to deal with frozen pipes, it’s quite another thing to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Follow the guide below and, if you’re lucky, you’ll avoid the costly annoyance that is frozen pipes.
Don’t Forget the Outside Faucets
First thing’s first. Or, rather, coldest thing’s first. Outside faucets are at the highest risk of freezing and bursting simply because they aren’t protected by the warmth of your house. They take the brunt of the cold weather.
But there’s another reason they’re the first thing to check: a frozen outdoor pipe can lead to problems indoors. Often, the ice can spread inside, freezing and bursting the pipe connected to the hose and even affecting pipes that come into contact with it. To prevent this, take the following actions:
- Disconnect the hose: ideally, you’ll want to do this before the frigid temperatures set in. Hoses pose a danger because they are not insulated and any water that is left in them can freeze, putting your spigot and pipes at risk.
- Shut off the water: you want to make sure there is no water in the spigot. So shut off the water using the valve inside your home and drain the water by opening the spigot outside.
- Check for leaks: if you’re noticing any leaks after shutting off the water, the trouble may be in your valve. Any leaks can be damaging as slowly running water will freeze.
- Consider frost-free spigots: for next year, it may be worthwhile investing in frost-free spigots if you haven’t already. They can take some of the worry out of ensuring that your outdoor pipes are clear of water.
Identify Freeze-Prone Pipes
The best way to keep your indoor pipes from freezing is by keeping them warm, and that means, first and foremost, making sure the cold stays outside and away from your pipes.
And for the pipes that are in the main areas of the house, that shouldn’t be a problem as heat penetrates those areas well. However, it is pipes in out-of-the-way areas that will need extra attention.
Check the External Walls
If you have pipes that run near external walls, those pipes are going to be the most likely to freeze. If you see consistent freezing in those pipes, you may want to consider adding extra insulation to that wall.
Additionally, it may be possible to insulate those pipes directly. See below for more. But if nothing works, you may want to reroute the pipe completely.
Check Under Sinks
Often, it’s difficult for heat to circulate under sinks properly. If possible, place a thermometer under your sink and see if the temperature falls below zero degrees.
If you notice the temperature under the sink getting too cold, it may be worthwhile to leave the cupboards open and use a space heater to ensure that heat circulates properly.
Check Crawl Spaces and Other Unused Areas
Try to trace the path of your pipes through your house. If there are areas where the pipes cluster, like crawl spaces, in the basement, or other areas, make sure that those areas are adequately heated.
Insulate At-Risk Pipes
When it comes to insulating pipes, there are quite a few options. If you’re in need of a temporary solution, you may be able to make do with ad-hoc solutions like newspaper. However, for a longer-lasting fix, you may want to purchase insulation from a hardware store.
It may not be the best solution, but newspaper will work in a pinch. Wrap a quarter inch of newspaper around the at-risk pipe and secure with tape. Do this for the entire length of pipe (leaving a gap will allow the cold to get through).
If you have it, you can increase the level of insulation by wrapping the newspaper-wrapped pipe in a layer of aluminum foil. Once again, secure with tape.
Pipe sleeve (often sold as “pipe insulation”) is probably the easiest solution. These are foam tubes that come ready to be placed on your pipes. Simply cut the pipe sleeve to the appropriate length, place it around the at-risk pipe, then use tape or zip-ties to secure it.
Another simple solution is pipe tape. This stuff is as easy as it sounds to use, and it can be really effective for pipe bends, something that will make it tricky to use a pipe sleeve. Simply wrap the tape around the pipe until it’s covered.
Leaving Home for a While?
If you’re planning to go on a trip mid-winter, we’re willing to be you don’t want to come back to realize all your pipes have frozen. So make sure you follow these steps before you leave:
- Keep the heat on: don’t let the house get too cold. Keep the thermostat at around 15 degrees or higher.
- Turn off the main: locate the main and shut it off. Next, flush the toilets and run your faucets to get as much of the water out of the pipes as you can.
- Keep the water running: even though the main is off, there still may be some water in the pipes. Leave a faucet open on every pipe you believe is in danger of freezing.
- Have someone check on your house: it may be a good idea to have someone you trust come by to check that nothing has gone wrong—that the heat is still on and the pipes are not cold to the touch.
As Always, We’re There for Emergencies
If all else fails and your pipes still freeze, you can give us a call. Our emergency services will have your pipe thawed and functioning in no time, so you can get back to life and the water can get back to running.
You can get help for frozen pipes and other plumbing issues at: