A Winter Woe:  Welcome Home to a Frozen Pipe

Has the polar vortex given your home’s pipes a chill? Here are some tips to fight back and help avoid serious damage.

Every winter, homeowners fear the cold weather and the plumbing expenses that can come with the frigid temperatures. You can see the concern with the seasonal Google search spikes for the term “frozen pipe.”

When water freezes, it expands. That's why a can of soda explodes if it's put into a freezer for too long. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes, and you are hit with a huge, and sometimes costly, mess. No matter how cold it gets, there are certain precautions all homeowners can take to avoid frozen pipes.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you avoid frozen pipes:

** Make sure to service your heating system annually.
** Seal cracks and holes around your home to eliminate drafts.
** If you have pipes that run adjacent to exterior walls, set the temperature on your thermostat a bit higher than   normal during a cold snap. A few more dollars to the utility company is still cheaper than a burst pipe.
** Open lower cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms to allow warm airflow to the pipes behind them.
** Let a small flow of water drip from faucets if the temperatures are going to be below freezing.  It's not ideal, but it could be the very thing that prevents your plumbing from freezing. Pipes won't freeze with water running through them.
** Insulate pipes located against exterior walls in unheated areas of your home like basements and crawl spaces. Use heat tape or pipe insulation found at most hardware or home improvement stores.
** If leaving for longer than a 24-hour period, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and open the taps to drain the water from your plumbing lines. Have someone check your home daily to make sure the heat is working.
** Monitor the temperature in your house if you are away with a smart thermostat like Nest. (If you would like more information on smart thermostats, I'm your "Smart Home Certified" girl!).

One final bit of extremely important advice: everyone in your home should be able to locate and turn off the main water supply. We have large, very visible yellow tags on all of the valves in our utility room so that if we have a problem, a family member, neighbour or friend would be able to locate the shut-off valve and turn off the water or gas quickly in an emergency.

Even with another polar vortex or two in the forecast, let's hope no one has to worry about frozen pipes any time soon.
It's always better to prevent, than to react. 

Stay warm, everyone!