“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s an old axiom that’s certainly apt when it comes to preventing frozen pipes, which can rupture or burst and cause extensive water damage that is costly to repair.
Fortunately, extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures are relatively uncommon in Nashville, and wintertime lows don’t often fall below twenty degrees when pipes become especially vulnerable to freezing. Still, you need to know how to protect your pipes and your home whenever there is a freeze warning in Middle Tennessee.
6 Tips to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets: When the temperature falls more than a few degrees below freezing, it’s a good idea to open the cabinets under your kitchen and bathroom sinks so that the heat from your home reaches the pipes under those sinks.
- Leave faucets running, just slightly more than a drip: This keeps water moving through the pipes and lessens the possibility of water freezing inside the line.
- Disconnect hoses from hydrants: Before the weather gets cold and falls below freezing, disconnect any hoses from outside hydrants/hose bibs. When a pipe is hooked up to a hydrant the tube inside the wall won’t drain completely, and if that water freezes the pipe can burst, resulting in water damage.
- Use insulated covers on outside hydrants: After you’ve disconnected hoses from your outside hydrants/hose bibs, put an insulated cover over each one as an added protection against the cold.
- Close foundation vents: Another forgotten step is to close and cover your foundation vents because if very cold air gets underneath your house or into the crawlspace, exposed piping is likely to freeze.
- Caulk and cover openings in your crawlspace. Again, it’s vital to close openings in the crawlspace that can allow extremely cold air and wind to reach the pipes that are under your house.
Outdoor Pipe Insulation
At the same time, it’s advisable to insulate the pipes under your house and cover all of the outdoor pipes that are exposed to the elements. Insulating your pipes doesn’t just prevent them from freezing it also limits heat loss from your hot water heater and will enable your hot water system to run more efficiently.
Pipe Warmers (Heat Trace)
As for those exterior pipes where insulation alone may not be sufficient to prevent freezing, we recommend installing pipe warmers (sometimes referred to as heat trace). A pipe warmer wraps around a pipe and maintains or raises the temperature to keep the pipe from freezing.
In some instances, the electric current runs continuously; in others, the pipe warmer is on a thermostat or timer and is set to come on and off at certain times of the year. Installing insulation and/or pipe warmers is generally best left to a professional plumber, as insulation must be properly sealed or it’s almost useless.
What Should You Do If a Pipe Bursts?
First, shut off the water and then call for
With this in mind, you want to make sure you know where all of your emergency shut-off valves are located, so you can shut off the water under your kitchen sink or to your hot water heater.
You also want to make sure you have a water meter key, so in the event a pipe freezes and bursts—or you have a catastrophic leak in your crawlspace or in a wall or under a sink—you can shut off the water to your home.
Keep in mind that damage to a pipe may not reveal itself right away. For example, if you have a hose attached to a hydrant on the outside of your home and the tube inside the wall freezes and ruptures, you may not notice until spring or summer when you go to turn on the hose and water begins leaking into the wall.
This argues for monitoring your hoses when you first use them in the spring; we once received an emergency call from a homeowner who left a hose on while they went out to the mall, only to return to a flooded house.
Schedule Plumbing Maintenance or Repair
At Jewell Mechanical, we place a premium on identifying and remedying issues before they lead to big, expensive problems that result in catastrophic water damage.
That’s why we recommend annual maintenance and annual inspection, when potential problems can be easily and readily addressed, as opposed to having to repair pipes that have frozen and ruptured.
To schedule plumbing maintenance or repair, give us a call at (615) 469-5965. And be sure to ask about our Plumbing Maintenance Agreement for additional peace of mind. Jewell Mechanical provides residential and commercial plumbing services to Davidson County and most of the rest of Middle Tennessee.