Burst pipes are a big problem for homeowners during the winter months. When the temperatures dip, the water inside your pipes gets colder and begins to freeze. This leads to increased pressure inside the pipes. This increase in pressure is too much for the pipes to handle, so they split, sending water pouring out of your pipes and into your house. This is a messy and expensive situation that should be avoided. Here are three ways that you can prevent your pipes from bursting this winter.
Leave your heat on when you're not home
It's tempting to turn your heat off when you leave the house to save money on your energy bills, but this can be dangerous. Turning your heat off when you go away allows the temperature inside your house to fall to dangerous levels. On a cold day, your pipes can freeze during the short time that you're at work, so instead of coming home to energy savings, you'll come home to a big mess.
Instead of turning your heat off completely, turn it down. Plumbers recommend setting your thermostat to at least 60 °F when you're not going to be home to protect your pipes.
Insulate your pipes
Pipes are often found in cold parts of your house like your basement, crawlspace, or your exterior walls. These pipes are very vulnerable to freezing. Adding more insulation to your walls may not be practical, but it's not too hard to add more insulation to the pipes themselves. Fiberglass and foam pipe insulation is widely available at hardware stores, but these materials don't provide much insulation value. These materials may be enough if you live in a state that doesn't get too cold, but in northern states, you'll need more insulation.
If you're handy, you can build a duct system around your pipes to keep them warm during the winter. This can be done with 2-inch thick extruded polystyrene foam and a duct booster fan. These ducts work by drawing warm air from your house into the area that surrounds the pipes. If DIY projects aren't your strong point, you can hire a contractor or a plumbing repair company to insulate your pipes for you.
Let water drip from your faucets
Usually, a leaky faucet is something that you want to avoid, but in the winter, it can be a good thing. Letting a trickle of water drip out of your faucets keeps the water flowing through your pipes and makes it less likely to freeze.
If you know where your water enters your house, turn on a faucet on the opposite end of the house to allow water to flow through all of your pipes. If you don't know where water enters your house, turn on a few faucets in different parts of your house to keep the water flowing.
In the short term, letting water trickle from your faucets doesn't waste too much water, so it's a good solution if you aren't able to get your pipes insulated in time for a cold snap. If one faucet drips 20 times per minute it will use less than 2 gallons of water each day. That may sound like a lot, but a burst pipe wastes a lot more water. A leaking pipe can release as much as 2,200 gallons of water in a single day.
Burst pipes are a big problem for homeowners in the cold winter months, but you can prevent this expensive problem. Make sure to leave your heat on when you're not home, insulate your pipes, and if insulating your pipes isn't an option, let your faucets drip.