Prevent Frozen Pipes in Houston

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The temperatures are dropping this week in Houston and many clients have begun asking “How Can I Prevent Bursting and Frozen Pipes?” So the following are tips to prevent freezing pipes during frigid weather:

Why does it happen?

During frigid weather, water freezes and expands. Water pipes can expand causing bursting and possible flooding in your home or business. Pipes that freeze first are those located near outside walls that are exposed to colder temperatures than pipes located throughout the middle of the structure. Some examples include outdoor hose bibs, pool lines, outdoor and indoor sprinkler systems, and other supply lines located in attics, crawl spaces, garages, etc…

What do I do?

The single most important thing to know before the cold hits is where the shutoff valve is and how to use it. knowing how to shut off the water supply can prevent severe flooding and damage that usually occurs with bursting pipes. Having every member of your household understand this information is critical in saving your home in the event of a burst pipe.

To determine where your shut off valve is, locate the outside water line that leads to your home. The water line usually flows directly from the water meter to a location inside the residence. The most likely places for the valve to be located are on the internal pipes near your outside walls or where the water enters the structure.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

NOTE: Vacant, unoccupied, or unheated homes need further protection not described below.

1. Protect all outside exposed water line shut off valves (see above video) including outside water faucet hose bibs, water softener equipment, pool equipment and/or sprinkler irrigation back flow preventers. All valves need to be completely protected not just water piping.
2. Keep garage doors closed tightly if there are water supply lines in the garage.
3. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors (During The Freeze Warning) and all other cabinet areas that are located on outside walls, to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to take all child safety measures that are necessary in your home.
4. Protect all exposed water piping. Insulate all areas where water supply lines are unheated. Areas to look for are outside, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as fast as a cold water supply line can freeze if water is not running through the pipe.
Note: outside hose bibs with vacuum breakers could prevent the water from draining down the incoming water riser.
5. During frigid cold snaps, do not alternate temperature settings on your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night will help to keep pipe temperatures consistent. If you are leaving for an extended period of time, set your thermostats no lower than 60F.
6. Open the attic access doors or stairs to allow warm air to circulate into attic for water pipes in the attic.
7. If our area is under a hard freeze alert for a long duration (36-48hours), then it may be necessary to perform the following steps:

  • Turn off the main water supply to the home or building at a freeze protected main shut off valve.
  • Turn on all possible plumbing fixtures and leave them turned on to allow for expansion if pipe freezes. Leave on until water is restored to the home or building. Note: outside hose bibs with vacuum breakers could prevent the water from draining down the incoming water riser.

Backflow Preventer Freeze Protection

The incoming valve should be turned off and both test ports having screw driver stops need to be turned to bleed the test ports down. Then Insulate the above ground pipes with Towels, a trash bag and/or a large garbage can (turned up-side-down over the system)

If you do not have an underground shutoff valve, follow these steps (See diagram):

1. Close ball valve #2 – the incoming valve.
2. Open both test ports #3 & #4 with a screwdriver.
3. Please note that the supply pipe and valves are subject to freeze breaking.

Don’t forget to insulate the system.

1. Insulate the exposed pipes with insulation (towels and small blankets can work).
2. Insulate the ball valves.
3. Cover the entire system with a large trash back to keep it dry
4. If you have a large plastic trashcan, cover the entire system with it.

Note: Insulation does not prevent freezing, it only slows the process.

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For more information about the prevention and maintenance of frozen pipes, contact Arrow Plumbing 281.240.6868.