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How To Prevent Pipes From Freezing- Winterizing Pipes

The winter months bring a lot of enjoyment to many homeowners. A warm, crackling fire and a steaming cup of hot chocolate are a perfect accompaniment to a cold, winter's day spent inside your toasty house. Many homeowners love the way their home looks in the winter months, decorated for the holidays. However, the cold winter months can bring a lot of headaches for homeowners, too. The subzero temperatures can cause damage to the infrastructure of a house. Pipes can freeze during the winter if homeowners do not take specific precautions to avoid this. Frozen pipes can result in damage that is expensive to repair and that can leave homeowners without access to water for many weeks. If you are a homeowner who is expecting an extraordinarily cold winter, understanding the importance of winterizing pipes and the proper steps required to effective winterize pipes will save you a lot of time, money and stress.

The Pipes of a Home

In any home, the water pipe system has a very complex infrastructure. Pipes are designed to bring water directly from a water supply and efficiently distribute this water throughout the home. Many plumbing systems are designed with special traps that prevent harmful or unpleasant fumes from being emitted from water that has backed up into the system. You can easily see if your home is equipped with these traps by noting the large curved piece of pipe beneath a sink. During normal use, this pipe often has water sitting in it. Through regular use, the water is continually flushed out; however, during the winter months this water can freeze if it is exposed to cold air and not properly insulated. Water pipes that are below ground or in areas that are not kept warm are at risk of freezing. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the pipe structure of your home before you consider winterizing your pipes.

Winter's Effect on A Home's Pipes

In most homes, winterizing the pipes is most likely unnecessary. A home that is used during the winter will have a consistent circulation of fresh water. This circulating motion will more than likely prevent water from freezing. However, if you have crawl spaces or basements that have extensive pipe work, there may be risk of pipes freezing. The reason that a frozen pipe can be so damaging is because of the nature of water itself. Unlike other liquids, water expands when it is frozen. If water fills a pipe and it freezes, the frozen water must have somewhere to go. Often the rapid expansion of the frozen water will cause the pipe to literally burst. Broken pipes can lead to extensive water damage that will ruin carpets, hardwood floors, plaster, and ceilings. This damage can be expensive to repair.

Generally, a home's water piping system should be winterized if it is going to be vacant for several weeks during the winter months. There are many different ways to winterize pipes.

Effectively Winterizing Your Pipes

Two of the most common ways to winterize pipes involve the use of foam insulation or heat tape. Foam insulation comes in large tubes that can be fitted around the outside of a pipe. The thick foam protects the pipe from the harsh effects of winter. Heat tape is more expensive than foam insulation but more reliable. The wiring in the heat tape will heat your pipes just enough so that they will not freeze.

Hiring Help

While pipe insulation can be completed by the homeowner, it is a good idea to hire professional assistance. Pipe winterization professionals can evaluate problem areas in your piping system and protect potential weak spots.

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