How to Prevent Your Pipes from Bursting in WinterLowell Corporation
Worried about how to prevent your pipes from bursting this winter? Winter weather brings many potential dangers, least of all to building infrastructure. One particularly vulnerable area is waterworks – pipes that carry water around buildings, including heating.
In this article, we’ll go over some tips for how to prevent your pipes from bursting in winter.
Why Do Pipes Burst in Winter?
The simple reason why pipes burst in winter is that water expands when it freezes. If the water is inside an enclosed space, such as a pipe, it needs to go somewhere. Considering water can expand in volume by 9%, this usually means the pipe will give way.
So, as you can imagine, most solutions to stop pipes from bursting in the winter involve preventing them from freezing. How you go about this, though, depends on the pipes in the building.
How to Stop Pipes from Bursting in Winter
1. Run the tap
A temporary solution to stop water from freezing in pipes is to turn the cold faucet on at a low trickle. Running water doesn’t freeze as easily as still water, and allowing it to run out of the faucet also keeps the pressure inside the pipes.
Of course, this isn’t a long-term option because it’s incredibly wasteful of water. While this might not be a massive issue in a home, running dozens of cold taps in a commercial building will quickly add up in cost.
2. Insulate the pipes
You can buy pipe insulation in almost any hardware store, and it’s incredibly cheap. Considering the money, it’ll save when compared to hiring a plumber. It’s almost a no-brainer.
Before installing, you might want to turn off the water supply to be on the safe side. For this, you’ll need various tools, including a pipeline wrench, valve wheel wrench, socket set, and more. Which tools you need will depend on whether it’s a residential or commercial water supply, as the latter can be more complicated.
However, fitting pipe insulation is super easy. You wrap it around the pipe, fix it in place with zip ties, and your work is complete. It’s particularly important to fit insulation on outside pipes and those running through areas such as basements and crawl spaces.
You might struggle to install pipe insulation on pipes within walls and under floors, which is the main downside of this solution. Providing you can insulate exterior pipes, you’ll make a difference, though.
3. Heat pipes
Another option you can apply directly to pipes is an electric heat cable. It works in much the same way as an electric blanket and keeps the pipe warm based on a thermostat’s temperature.
Using a thermostat means it won’t waste electricity because it’ll only turn on when needed. However, the costs will quickly mount up if you live somewhere particularly cold.
Waterworks jobs need tough wrenches that withstand the test of time. That’s where Lowell comes in.
4. Run the heating
This step might seem like an obvious solution, but maintaining a consistent temperature in the building will stop pipes from freezing. It should work fine as long as the water doesn’t freeze before entering the building.
Importantly, you’ll want to keep the temperature consistent during the night. It can be tempting to turn heating down when you’re asleep or when a building isn’t in use, but this can cause more damage than you might expect.
Ensure the temperature never drops below 55F, as you need to account for heat reaching pipes in walls and under floors. Keeping it around this temperature should mean pipes are warm enough when you factor in heat transfer.
5. Insulate cold areas
If you haven’t done so already, make sure you properly insulate cold areas of the building where pipes run. These areas might include basements, crawl spaces, attics, under floors, and more.
The point of insulation is to keep heat in and reduce the effect of heat transfer from warm areas to cold ones. Large spaces between interior and exterior walls can quickly suck heat from a building, so proper insulation is important.
Something like blown-in insulation is the easiest option, as you don’t need to take down a wall to add it. Rockwool insulation works well, too, and you should focus on sealing small gaps with caulk to prevent drafts.
Of course, while you’re insulating these spaces, it might help to wrap the pipes, too.
6. Let warm air get to the pipes
For pipes inside buildings, it can help if you expose them to warm air. For example, open the cabinet doors if pipes run under a sink inside a cabinet. It’s particularly helpful if the pipes run along an outside wall.
Similarly, reduce drafts and cold air exposure where possible. This precaution can be as simple as keeping doors shut in colder areas like basements and garages. While not as effective as insulation, it can make a difference if you can’t reach the pipes.
What Tools Do Waterworks Engineers Use to Prevent Pipes from Bursting?
Plumbers and engineers have various tools and techniques for working with damaged pipes. A plumber’s waterworks tools can include everything from a valve wheel wrench and socket set to pipe cutters and blowtorches. Common pipeline tools also include a pipeline wrench and a drain wrench.
A plumber will usually try the methods listed above to prevent pipes from bursting. Insulating pipes is by far the easiest way for a plumber to stop them from bursting, so this is typically their first option.
When it comes to thawing frozen pipes, a plumber’s waterworks tools come out again. They’ll need to turn off the water flow before thawing the pipe using anything from a heat gun or blowtorch to a hot water bottle.
How to Act Now to Prevent Pipes from Bursting
Preventing a pipe from bursting in the winter is something you should think about at literally any other time of the year. Ideally, get your insulation fitted in the summer or fall when there’s no danger of temperatures dropping too low. After all, the last thing you want is to call a plumber out with their waterworks tools to fix a flooded basement!
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