When Should You Wrap Your Pipes During Freezing Temperatures If You Live In The South?
We don't get extremely cold weather often here in South Louisiana, but when we do it's important to know when to make sure your pipes are taken care of.
Anyone who has experienced water damage knows just how huge of a problem it can be. Water damage from frozen pipes can sometimes be an even bigger problem, mainly because here in the south we simply don't consider the threat of freezing weather when it comes to building homes.
Also, houses are commonly built on slab foundations in the south which means water pipes are usually run through the attic—not the best place in terms of vulnerability when it comes to water damage from frozen pipes.
If you live in a house with pipes located in the attic, outside walls or crawl spaces—those areas are all subject to freezing and bursting. In particular, strong overnight freezing is what usually does the most damage to these exposed, unheated and uninsulated pipes.
So when exactly should you be concerned about your pipes? At what temperature should you take preventive measures?
Well according to a survey of 71 plumbers practicing in southern states, problems begin to appear when temperatures fall into the teens, therefore 20 degrees F is what is known as the "temperature alert threshold."
If you have pipes that are exposed to cold air due to cracks in a wall, lacking insulation or located outside, incidents can occur during temps above that 20 degree F threshold. This is especially common when it comes to some manufactured homes or older homes that sit above ground.
Two main factors that play into this temperature threshold.
1. The temperature of an unheated portion of a house is almost always at least a few degrees above the outdoor temperature. For example, an insulated attic may be at 37 degrees or 38 degrees F when the outdoor temperature is 32 degrees F.
2. Water “supercools” several degrees below freezing before any ice begins to form. In research tests at the University of Illinois, water pipes placed in an unheated, insulated attic consistently started forming ice when the outdoor temperature dipped just below 20 degrees F.
Now keep in mind, this threshold of 20 degrees F is ONLY for homes in the south and other areas that only see freezing conditions once or twice during the winter season.
So how do you prevent disaster related to frozen pipes? According to DisasterSafety.org:
• Pipes in attics and crawl spaces should be protected with insulation or heat. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves. Home centers and hardware stores have sleeves providing 1/8 to 5/8 inches of insulation; specialty dealers have products that provide up to 2 inches of insulation.
• Heating cables and tapes are effective in freeze protection. Select a heating cable with the UL label and a built-in thermostat that turns the heat on when needed (without a thermostat, the cable has to be plugged in each time and might be forgotten). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
• Doors on cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks should be left open during cold spells to allow the warmer air of the room to circulate around the pipes.
• Exterior pipes should be drained or enclosed in 2-inch fiberglass insulation sleeves.
• Pipes leading to the exterior should be shut off and drained at the start of the winter. If these exterior faucets do not have a shut-off valve inside the house, have one installed by a plumber.
• Hoses should be removed and stored inside during the winter.
• Let faucets drip slowly to keep water flowing through pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. Ice might still form in the pipes, but an open faucet allows water to escape before the pressure builds to where a pipe can burst. If the dripping stops, it may mean that ice is blocking the pipe; keep the faucet open, since the pipe still needs pressure relief.
Stay warm, and share this with friends, family and neighbors so that they are prepared when temperatures drop below freezing here in South Louisiana.