With the East Coast currently in a deep freeze, sub-zero temperatures can spell catastrophe for your pipes. It's important to know how to prevent your water pipes from freezing over during the harsh winter months. Luckily, WikiHow has a great set of instructions to prevent your pipes from freezing and to thaw out already frozen ones.
1: Insulate all water pipes from cold moving air and keep them dry. Locate the main water shut off in case you need it. Leaks often happen if the pipe is thawed out.
2: Use either heater tapes wrapped around the pipes or a heated reflector lamp in a dry enclosed space. On cold nights, check the light to see that it is working. The heater tapes work by a built-in thermostat. In order to work, the tape must be wrapped between the pipe and the insulation. Some tapes do not allow insulation over heat tape. Follow manufacturer instruction.
3: If electric power is unavailable or is lost, let the water run no faster than a slow constant drip; this is cheaper than repairing it. First start a slow drip on the hot side faucet, then a faster drip on the cold side faucet. There is no need to run a lot of water. Bathrooms can be cold, as long as they aren't freezing.
4: Remember to insulate and heat the drain lines in crawl spaces and cold basements. Again, a heat lamp focused on the drain p-trap will keep it from freezing if it is also protected from moving cold air with a boxed enclosure that you can build yourself.
5: To thaw a frozen pipe, first check the pipe in the area of the freeze. Some plastic or copper pipes will split and will flood the area when thawed. If the pipe looks busted or has a slit in it, call a plumber. If the pipe is all metal, it can be thawed by connecting a welder onto the pipe on each side of the frozen part. After a while it will be running again. This is just like connecting starter cables to the car battery, but with much longer cables.
6: It is far better to heat the area around the frozen part with an electric space heater, a hand-held hair dryer, or a heat lamp in a reflector to prevent a fire. Use care when placing heat generating devices. Space heaters, heat lamps and reflective lamps can generate high temperatures which may cause combustion of certain materials, Never leave these devices unattended for any amount of time when in use. If this is a problem, call the plumber. Some of them don't mind if you watch them as long as you are quiet and not in the way.
7: Always disconnect your water hose from your outdoor spigot in the winter, or before the temperature in your area drops below freezing. The water inside the hose can freeze, and the freezing continues back into the spigot until it reaches your pipes. If you have PVC plastic piping leading to this spigot, it will burst.
8: Use a temperature-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve (which does not require electricity to operate) to continuously circulate warm water throughout your hot and cold waterlines anytime the temperature is below the user chosen set point 77F-140F. Unlike heat tape which only heats the pipes, this process circulates water non-stop to prevent crystallization and freezing no matter where the pipes are hidden. Note: This method requires that the valve be installed at a higher level (2nd - 3rd floor) than the water heater. Circulating water throughout your system "non-stop" will also increase your water heating bill. Anytime circulation,is not desired uninstall the valve.
9: Use a product called ICE LOC which prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water. It's an elastomer that fits inside pipes that are in trouble areas.
10: Use a RedyTemp, a device which utilizes an internal water contacting temperature probe to monitor the temperature of the water inside the pipes. Depending on the temperature set point you choose on the unit's temperature dial, it will intermittently circulate water throughout both hot and cold water lines "as needed" to maintain the selected temperature. Intermittent circulation typically results in 5 minutes of actual circulation per hour causing far less water heater demand compared to continuous demand from thermostatic valves. The RedyTemp optimizer installation is a DIY project and takes twenty minutes to install under a sink. Disconnect one end of the existing faucet supply lines and connect to the RedyTemp. Connect the two faucet supply lines which come with the RedyTemp. Plug the unit into a standard wall socket and set the desired temperature set point. Users can gauge the effectiveness of their chosen set point by opening cold water faucets upstream and feeling how cool/ambient/warm the water is coming out the tap, and adjust the set point accordingly until optimized. An optimized set point is achieved when cool or ambient temperature water is maintained in the cold water pipes or the portion of pipe requiring protection. RedyTemp's low 40 watt / 0.52 amp intermittent power consumption allows using a uninterruptible power supply for continuous protection during power outages. Owners of tankless on-demand water heaters require RedyTemp TL4000 series model rather than the ATC3000 depicted in the illustration. During off seasons when circulation is not desired users simply lower the temperature set point to prevent circulation.
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