It’s supposed to be a warmer than usual winter, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be days of cold weather here and there that dip below freezing. All it takes is a strong Canadian cold front to sweep into Texas to wreak havoc on water pipes and outdoor spigots, leading to a massive water leak that could cause a home catastrophe.
The fact that much of the winter could be warm could actually catch people off guard and unprepared to deal with the type of cold weather that can cause big problems – especially when it is unexpected.
Even in a warmer than average winter, there is still the potential of days with freezing weather. The Greater Houston area (which includes Brazos River basin communities of Sugar Land, Richmond/Rosenberg and Brazoria County) experiences an average of 10 nights per year when temperatures drop below freezing, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do that don’t take too much time to prepare for those rare but possibly destructive cold snaps. Taking a few minutes now could save you a lot of money in repair bills while keeping water where it supposed to be – and from damaging your home.
The goal is to keep pipes from freezing. The American Red Cross notes that water is unique in that it expands when it freezes: “This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.”
Pipes most at risk are those spigots which are located outdoors, such as swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler systems. Other pipes susceptible to freezing are located in places such as crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets, as well as those against walls that are not well insulated.
If the cold snap occurs unexpectedly when people are away from their homes for a holiday event or weekend trip, the possibility of damage increases.
The Red Cross recommends the following steps to protect your property:
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines according to manufacturer’s instructions, or have a professional do the job for you.
- Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. Close inside valves linked to outdoor spigots, but keep the outside valve open to allow water to drain. Also, you can purchase Styrofoam coverings to place over the spigots as added protection from the cold.
- Consider adding insulation to attics and crawl spaces.
- Insulate pipes located in unheated areas of your home.
- Keep garage doors closed as much as possible during cold weather if there are water lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so that warmer air can circulate in those areas.
- If the weather outside is very cold, let water drip from faucets. This helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep your thermostat set at a steady temperature. If you are plan to leave your home for an extended time, do not set the temperature lower than 55 degrees.
Accuweather offers additional tips that can help prevent damage from freezing pipes.
- Before freezing weather occurs, you can use an environmentally friendly mix to help prevent clogged drains and to protect water pipes. This mixture consists of a cup of salt, a cup of baking soda and one-fourth of a cup of cream of tartar. Pour equal amounts of the mixture into drains throughout your home. Follow this by pouring two cups of boiling water into each drain.
- When possible, spread showers out throughout the day. When you allow at least 10-minute intervals between showers, this helps to maintain hot water availability as well as proper pressure.
- If you know or suspect pipes in your home may be frozen, you can thaw them using a hair dryer, by wrapping an electric heating pad around them (if the pipe shows no sign of breakage or leaking) or by wrapping them in towels that have been soaked in hot water. Make sure the faucet is turned on so that melted water can drip out.
When the weather has been warm, it’s easy to be caught off guard by a sudden cold snap. Taking precautions in advance can keep you from having to pay an expensive repair bill, and also helps to conserve water that could otherwise damage your home.
For more information on protecting your home from winter cold snaps, visit here.