After nearly a decade of being a home owner I’ve seen a lot. From a furnace breakdown on Thanksgiving morning to a sump-pump blowout 8 hours after I had surgery. But the vast majority of home repairs, big or small, are preventable with some regular, easy maintenance. January is a great month for hot cocoa and playing in the snow as the holiday season transitions to the new year. Unfortunately, cold temperatures this time of year can cause trouble in your home including frozen water lines. So how do you prevent water lines from freezing, pipes from bursting and costing you a lot of your hard earned money? There are several simple ways to do this for little to no cost. First off, keep your heat on. While it can save you money on your heating bill to set your heat to a lower temperature when you’re not at home, you don’t want to let the temperature drop too low. Typically, a standard rule of thumb is to keep the home above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, keep in mind that cold air will always find a way in through cracks. To help with this you can go to the hardware store and buy a can of spray foam insulation ($8-12). When you get home, go around to any places near a water pipe and feel for air leaks in that space. If you feel any air, seal up the area with some spray foam. Just be careful as the foam expands. Don’t put too much in one spot as it could expand too much, causing damage.
Another tip – when you know it’s going to be very cold, open doors or cabinets to expose the water lines to warmer air in your home. Especially if these lines are on an exterior wall. In extreme cold, it’s also a good idea to keep the faucets on so the water flows in a very thin stream or steady drip. It is much more difficult for flowing water to freeze.
Lastly, the most important preventative step to keep your water lines flowing is to insulate. This is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. And in contrast to the cost of busted pipes, this is well worth the one-time investment. For this step, you can go to your local hardware store to get the insulation. It’s a black foam tube that usually comes in 6 foot long sections. They look like those foam noodles the kids play on in the pool. One section should cost between $7 to $12 depending on the size and product quality. Make sure to measure and figure out how much insulation you need and what size around the tube needs to be in order to wrap fully around your water line. The standard size of water lines in a home is usually between ½ to ¾ of an inch around. Keep in mind that you don’t need to wrap every inch of your water lines with insulation. The primary places to insulate are those sections of your pipes which are most vulnerable to cold air. For example, a water line that runs upstairs to a bathroom. Upstairs bathroom sinks and toilets are almost always nearer to an exterior wall. Another prime example is the water line running to your outdoor water spigot. To learn how to properly insulate water lines, just check out a couple of demonstration videos online. If you feel like that’s a project you’re not comfortable doing yourself, it would still be worth it to hire someone to do it for you. In the bigger picture, a couple hundred dollars is much more inexpensive than the damage a burst pipe can do to your home.