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How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

January 26, 2023

Here in South Carolina, it’s rare for temperatures to drop much below freezing. As a result, most home builders don’t even think about the potential for freezing pipes. This false sense of security causes them to place pipes in vulnerable locations like the outer walls of homes, in crawl spaces, or even in attics if a slab foundation prevents plumbers from running pipes beneath the house.

The problem is that when we get cold snaps like the one we had in December, all of those pipes will be subject to freezing. You don’t want to be caught off-guard when the temperatures start to drop precipitously. Read on to find out how to prevent frozen pipes and why it’s so important that you take action in advance instead of taking a wait-and-see approach.

What temperature will pipes freeze?

Pipes will not necessarily start to freeze when the outdoor temperatures reach 32oF. Experts point out that you don’t really have to start worrying about frozen pipes until the temperatures get down to around 20oF. Until that point, the home’s insulation should provide sufficient protection, even if the pipes are located in unheated spaces like attics.

How do I protect my pipes in the winter?

How to protect your pipes in winter isn’t something you should wait to consider until there’s a cold front or a winter storm already on the way. Instead, start preparing in the fall. You’ll need some time to take adequate preventative measures, such as:

  • Insulating pipes with fiberglass sleeves
  • Purchasing and installing thermostat-controlled heating cables or tapes
  • Draining exterior pipes that won’t need to be used for the winter
  • Having a shut-off valve installed by a plumber to turn off exterior faucets

If there’s a cold front on the way and you haven’t had the time to take any of these steps, you’re not completely out of luck. There are a few additional ways to prevent pipe freezing during minor cold snaps where the temperature doesn’t stay below 20o for long. You can open the under-sink cabinets along exterior walls to let the heat in, or leave faucets on to take advantage of the fact that running water doesn’t freeze as easily.

Can frozen pipes burst?

Frozen pipes can burst if they’re not addressed promptly using the right measures. You can’t just turn on a space heater and leave it pointed at the pipes. To prevent burst pipes, give Ethical Plumbing a call. We have plenty of experience with winter pipe repair.

You’ll be able to tell that you have frozen pipes the first time you go to turn on the faucet. If there’s no running water, the chances are good that a pipe along the exterior wall or near the foundation has frozen. Keep the faucet open to help prevent burst pipes by allowing water to run through unfrozen sections.

What to Do When Pipes Freeze

If your pipes have already frozen, don’t lose hope. You may still be able to prevent them from bursting and causing serious damage. In addition to leaving the taps open, you can also try applying mild heat to the affected pipes. This approach can work if the frozen area is someplace easy to reach. Keep an eye out for leaks, though, because as the pipes heat back up and the ice melts, any damage caused by the initial freezing will rear its ugly head in the form of bursts or cracked pipes and subsequent leaks.

When a winter cold snap has left you in need of pipe repair, Ethical Plumbing can help. You can contact us online or call (864) 438-0525 to schedule an appointment today.