Make This the Winter You Don't Worry About Frozen Pipes
Winter is on its way. Within the next few weeks, many of our customers in the Gravenhurst Ontario area will be powering on their heating systems for the first time in months.
Hopefully, this will serve as a timely reminder that winter feels cold for everyone and everything - including your pipes!
A frozen pipe can be one of the most devastating of all Canadian winter hazards. Why is this? Frozen pipes don't just disrupt heat or water flow. They could also potentially lead to major water damage and mould remediation.
The tips in this post will help you prepare your pipes to withstand our notorious far north winter season.
Where Do Pipes Freeze and How Do You Find Them?
The first question to tackle begins with "where." Where are the pipes of most concern? And how can you find them?
The most vulnerable pipes can typically be found in these places: exterior walls, attics, basements, crawlspaces, garage or workspace areas. This is especially true in any area that is not well insulated where pipes exist.
You also need to locate the main emergency water shutoff valve for your house. If a pipe does freeze and burst, you won't have a second to waste looking for it.
Looking for local HVAC contractors to help locate vulnerable pipes? These can be hard to find, especially if you are new to your current home and aren't that familiar with its quirks yet. Contact your Gravenhurst service technician for assistance and we will be happy to help!
How to Prepare Your Pipes Before a Storm or Hard Freeze Alert
Here in Canada, our winter weather can be particularly unpredictable. You won't always know ahead of time how cold temperatures are going to get.
But luckily, these tips will help give you the best chance of riding out any storm or hard freeze without a pipe bursting.
1. Insulate, seal and caulk.
Once you have a good working map of where the vulnerable pipes are, it is time to put their winter jackets on.
The next steps depend greatly on where the pipes are and how easy they are to access.
Start with the most visible - your outdoor spigots and sprinkler system irrigation lines. Disconnect all the hoses. Locate the main shutoff valve, open it and drain all the water out. Then open each spigot and fully drain any remaining water out. Then close the valve and spigots tightly and cover each with a hose bib.
For visible connecting pipes, you will want to use some expandable foam sealant or caulking to keep cold air out and off the pipe itself.
Finally, make sure your water meter box itself is covered and insulated.
2. Install a heat cable and more insulation.
Invest in a heat cable and install it along the exposed pipe. Then cover that with pipe insulation to keep the warmth in.
3. Plan ahead against a winter power outage.
Too many homeowners each year are caught out by winter power outages that lead to burst pipes and flooding.
Be aware that even the best pipe insulation is more like a band-aid without heat cable. And a heat cable without a backup power source has a similar impact in case of a power outage.
This is especially vital to remember if you plan to open cabinets and use portable heaters to keep exposed interior pipes warm during a freeze. How will you power your portable heaters or heat cable if your electricity goes out?
4. Add insulation to your home and outbuildings.
Are there water pipes in your garage or workspace? How about in your attic, crawlspace or basement? How well insulated are these spaces?
If your answer is "not very well" consider the cost of repairing a burst pipe-related winter water leak against the cost of adding some pre-emptive insulation. You might find it is one of the most cost-effective preparations you can make!
What To Do If Your Pipes Do Freeze This Winter
Sometimes you won't know you have a problem until a pipe bursts and floods your home.
But other times you get lucky and discover a frozen pipe before it bursts. If this happens, there are some steps you can take to thaw it out if you can get to it.
Before trying this, be sure to shut off your home's main water valve!
When you start warming up the pipe, it is important not to just blast the pipe with heat as this can lead to bursting.
Rather, apply gentle heat using a blow dryer, portable space heater or even a heating pad, moving it along the pipe towards the suspected area of the freeze.
Once you have warmed the pipe sufficiently, you can turn on the main water valve and open the faucet slightly to allow the thawed water to flow out.
When in doubt or when the pipe is partially or fully inaccessible, don't try this yourself. Always call your Gravenhurst service technician right away to avoid risk of a home flood.
Be Sure to Review Your Homeowners Insurance Policy
Finally, this is the time to take another look at your homeowners insurance to be sure you understand what is covered and what your responsibilities are to keep your coverage intact.
Not all homeowner policies will cover burst pipes, especially if you don't follow the order of instructions outlined in your policy to the letter.
If you have questions about coverage for burst pipes, contact your insurer right away.
Let Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating and Electric Get Your Heating System Winter-Ready
Is this your first time braving winter in Canada? Have you moved to a new place where you are less familiar with the heat system and pipe structure? We can help!
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