Pipes burst when water expands inside the pipe due to freezing temperatures. This usually occurs in less than 20 degrees, but it can happen above that mark as well. In the south, pipes are generally exposed to the outdoor elements, unlike the north where they expect freezing temps. Both North and South are both being pummeled by strong winter storms.
So here’s what you can do to protect your pipes:
• Cover pipes with weather safe insulation material. Do not cover the faucet spout as you will be letting it drip slightly. If you wrap your pipes in non-weather safe material (towels, rags), a leak could cause these materials to freeze to the pipe.
• Leave cabinets open, allowing your home’s warm air to circulate around the pipes under your sinks and preventing frozen pipes and bursts.
• Allow water to drip. This may seem contradictory to water conservation. However, allowing your faucets to drip VERY slightly during freezing temperatures can prevent a freeze or burst.
If your pipes do burst, call a plumber. While you wait for a professional, you can:
• Turn off your water at the meter.
• Open the cold water faucet closest to the frozen pipe to relieve pressure and prevent the pipe from bursting.
• DO NOT use a device with an open flame to thaw the pipe. Using a blow dryer on a low setting is ok. Be warned that you heat a pipe too quickly it will burst. If it bursts and there is an electrical appliance or open flame near the water, you could be electrocuted.
• DO NOT let your home thermostat drop below 55 degrees F
If you’re going out of town, consider winterizing your home. A plumber can winterize by draining down your plumbing system, water heater, fixtures and appliances to ensure there isn’t any water in the pipes. Then they add a chemical, similar to anti-freeze, for any remaining water in the pipes.
Allie Perez is director of operations, Mr. Plumber / Mr. AC, San Antonio (http://www.mrplumbersa.com). Her interesting viewpoints on the trades can be found on her blog at http://www.mrplumbersa.com/blog.