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How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing this Winter


The cold Columbus winters can wreak havoc on your home's plumbing. Frozen pipes are the most common wintertime plumbing problem. When the water inside a pipe freezes, the ice starts to expand and puts extra pressure on the pipe. This may cause the pipe to burst and cause water damage. Luckily, preventing your pipes from freezing can be done with a few simple steps.

Winterize Your Hose Bibs and Outdoor Plumbing Fixtures

When fall comes and you're done watering your garden or washing your car until spring, it's time to winterize your outdoor hose fixtures. To do this, make sure to unhook all of your hoses and shut the water off to all hose bibs and any other outdoor plumbing fixtures. Every hose bib and outdoor fixture will have a dedicated shut-off valve in the basement or crawl space. After unhooking the hoses, you can go inside and fully close each of the shut-off valves. You then need to go back outside and open each hose bib to drain any remaining water in the pipe. Wait around 10 minutes to make sure all of the water has drained before shutting the hose bibs back off.

If you don't make sure each hose bib and fixture fully drains, there is a chance that the pipe will freeze where it enters the house. Disconnecting all hoses is also important.

Make Sure All of Your Hose Bibs Are Frost-Proof

All hose bibs have a stem that sticks into the house where it meets the water line. The shut-off valve is located where the two meet. Standard hose bibs are quite short and connect to the pipe just a few inches inside the home. Frost-proof hose bibs have a much longer stem that extends further inside the home before it connects to the pipe. This means that the shut-off valve is further inside the home where the air is warmer so the pipe will be less likely to freeze. Standard hose bibs greatly increase the chances of the pipe freezing since the water line extends all the way out to where the hose bib enters the house and the air is much colder.

Most hose bibs will have markings that tell you if they're frost-proof. You can also usually tell whether or not a bib is frost-proof by the location of the handle. The handle on a standard bib usually sticks out an angle up above the bib. On frost-proof bibs, the handle is typically straight in line at the very end of the bib. Frost-proof bibs will also have an anti-siphon valve on top of the pipe where it exits the home.

Insulate Exposed Piping Wherever Possible

Another easy way to reduce the risk of your pipes freezing is to insulate all exposed pipes wherever possible. The majority of your water lines will usually be hidden inside your interior walls and underneath your floors, but many homes also typically have at least some pipes that are exposed. Insulating these pipes will help keep them shielded from cold air so that there is much less chance of the water inside the pipe freezing. It is especially important to insulate any water lines in an attic or crawl space since these areas never receive any direct heat and can get extremely cold during the winter.

Don't Set Your Thermostat Too Low

Many people always turn their thermostat to a lower temperature before going to bed as they prefer to sleep in a cooler environment. There is nothing wrong with turning your heating down at night, and it's the easiest way to save money on heating costs. However, you don't want to ever turn the temperature down too far since this can increase the chances of your pipes freezing overnight.

The issue is that there will always be areas of a home that constantly stay much colder than the main part of the building. The areas most prone to this are inside of exterior walls and along the foundation walls in the basement. Most homes don't have any water lines inside of the exterior walls since this would make them extremely prone to freezing, but most places do have at least some water lines located along the basement walls.

The main water line typically enters the home through the basement floor, and this area is often quite cold compared to the rest of the home since all of the vents that supply heat to the area are usually mounted into the ceiling. In many cases, the area where the water line enters the basement can be 20 degrees colder than the rest of the home. For this reason, we would recommend never turning your thermostat lower than 60 degrees or else there will be a greater risk of your main water line freezing.

Leave Your Water Running

Running water is also less likely to freeze than standing water, which is why lakes freeze over during the winter but rivers often won't. This is why it's a good idea to turn on your faucets and showers so there is constantly a small amount of water dripping or trickling out of the fixture during extremely cold weather. Opening up the fixtures will keep water constantly flowing through the pipe and usually ensure that it can't freeze.

Open Cabinets and Doors to Help Warm Air Circulate

Another good tip during extremely cold weather is to open the cabinet doors underneath all of your sinks. If you keep the doors closed, almost no heat will get inside the cabinets and the temperature could quickly become cold enough for the pipes to freeze. Keeping the cabinet doors open will allow some warm air to get inside and circulate around the pipes to help prevent them from freezing.

It's also a good idea to keep your bathroom door open to allow more heat inside. You should also do this for your mechanical room, utility room and any rooms that tend to get colder. Keeping the doors open will help your heating system to effectively circulate heat so these rooms stay warmer and your pipes are less likely to freeze.

If you ever find yourself facing a frozen pipe during the winter, you can count on the team at Apex Plumbing, Heating and Air Pros for help. Our team specializes in all types of residential and commercial services. In addition to fixing frozen pipes, our plumbers can repair and install conventional and tankless water heaters, install and detect leaks in gas lines and repipe or install pipes, fixtures and sump pumps in residential and commercial buildings. Our drain and sewer services include backflow testing, jetting, cleaning, repair and slab leaks. Our certified HVAC technicians help with heating and air conditioning repair, maintenance and installation. We also provide air quality services, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, thermostats, mini-splits and ductwork. For more information on our plumbing and HVAC services in Columbus or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.