Unless they’ve been prepared for the ravages of winter, cold temperatures can wreak havoc on the pipes in your Wichita, KS home. As the water inside of pipes freezes, it invariably expands. When this expansion exceeds the limitations of your pipes, they’ll burst. This will result in costly plumbing repairs and extensive water damage. Read on to find out just how low outside temperatures must fall before trouble rears its head.
The Freezing Point of Pipes
Freezing starts at just 32 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, it doesn’t have to be excessively cold outdoors for plumbing problems to arise. However, in most cases, water at the interior of plumbing systems won’t start icing over until temperatures reach as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. One easy way to avoid this is by keeping your thermostat set at a moderate temperature all winter long. This remains true even when you aren’t at home. If you’ll be working overtime or going on vacation, keep your heater running. Not only will this protect the pipes at the interior of the building, but it will also safeguard pipes that are able to absorb heat from the exterior walls of your home.
Insulating Outdoor Pipes
Don’t wait until outdoor temperatures fall below 20 degrees to insulate exposed pipes. Although freezing is all but guaranteed to occur at this temperature, uninsulated pipes are vulnerable even when the weather is much warmer. This includes pipes at the exterior of your home and pipes in low-lying, basement areas. It also includes pipes in spaces that aren’t directly serviced by your home’s heating system.
It’s also important to note that pipe insulation doesn’t actually make your pipes warm. Instead, insulation prevents heat loss from external factors. Thus, there are additional measures that you should take to prevent the water in your outdoor pipes from freezing. For instance, when outside temperatures become exceedingly low, you may want to keep the attached faucets running. Moving water is less likely to freeze than trapped water that’s absolutely still.
Before winter actually arrives, you should detach all water hoses and drain all water leading to the hose bib. Frozen pipes that are completely empty aren’t at risk of rupturing.
Underground Pipes and Freezing Temperatures
Even buried pipes are subject to freezing when the outside temperature drops low enough. Although you can’t insulate underground pipes with tie-on materials that have been purchased at a local home and hardware store, there are still measures that you can take to prevent excessive heat loss and freezing.
Underground pipes have the highest likelihood of freezing when their naturally insulating soil cover is disturbed. For instance, you should be concerned about freezing underground pipes if you’ve recently had a trenching project completed for a new water line installation and the surrounding soil hasn’t fully settled. Pipes in areas where construction or earthwork has recently been performed are vulnerable too. Any activity that displaces a large amount of soil or replaces soil with fill materials that conduct heat away from pipes may make them more likely to freeze during the next big chill.
Although it’s often cheaper to schedule construction work, pipe replacements, and landscaping projects during off-season months when the weather is much cooler and demand is low, we often recommend postponing this work until freezing temperatures have passed. If you have underground pipes that are vulnerable due to soil movement, recently completed trenching, or newly installed concrete, our crew at Midwest Mechanical can help.
What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze
To prevent your pipes from freezing when the outside temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, be sure to insulate all exposed pipes and keep the interior of your home warm even when you’re away. In remote areas of the building that aren’t reliably serviced by your HVAC system, leave the doors and under-sink cabinets open so that the available heat can flow in.
If your pipes do freeze, avoid trying to rapidly warm them with the direct application of a high-heat source such as a blow torch. Instead, you can try wrapping exposed pipes in warm towels and raising the temperature setting at your thermostat. However, to prevent pipe ruptures, give us a call as soon as you notice slow-moving water, water that stays ice cold at your taps despite having a functional water heater, or taps that emit no water at all when turned on.
We offer heating, cooling, plumbing, and indoor air quality services. We’re also available to handle all of your pipe replacement and repair needs. We can help if the pipes in your Wichita home ever freeze over or need insulation. To schedule an appointment, call Midwest Mechanical today.