Plummeting winter temperatures can freeze pipes and cause serious problems for homeowners when cracked or burst pipes result. The usual culprits are inadequate insulation and ventilation-pipes near exterior walls, in crawl spaces, attics, and garages are the most susceptible.
The problem is bigger than you may think. More than 250,000 homes are damaged by frozen or broken water pipes each year --- ranking second only to hurricanes in terms of damage and costs. Unlike hurricanes, however, frozen pipes can be prevented.
Simple precautions can help prevent frozen pipes
- Insulate all exposed pipes in your basement, attic, and outside walls, as well as under your home. Follow manufacturer's instructions when using heat tape, as improper usage can create a fire hazard. Also, be aware that heat tape can wear out, so be sure to check it before the winter months arrive.
- Attach a large manila tag to the water main shut off to clearly label it for anyone in the house to find. Make sure you and all members of your household know how to shut off the water in case a pipe should burst.
- Disconnect garden hoses, and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
- Winterize sprinkler systems according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Using a compressor to blow out excess water may be the best way to prevent frozen pipes. As there are safety issues involved, you may want to hire a contractor to perform this work if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself.
- Leave cabinet doors open, allowing more heat to reach pipes under a sink or appliance.
- Make sure the heat is left on and set no lower than 55°F, even if your home is vacant.
- If you are going away, have someone check your home daily to ensure that the heat is working properly.
- When weather is extremely cold, consider leaving faucets dripping slightly to circulate water and avoid freezing.
If you suspect a frozen pipe, call a plumber. If a pipe bursts, take quick action to minimize damage. Turn off the water and leave the faucets on. Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame, and never use electrical appliances in areas of standing water, as electric shock is possible.
Damage caused by frozen pipes may be covered by homeowners insurance. It is important to review your policy to know what your policy covers and to ensure that you have adequate coverage.
Our Risk Coaches are licensed insurance professionals who are trained to look at coverage from your perspective. They’re glad to help you navigate the often-perplexing world of insurance coverage. Start a quote online, or call us at 800.342.5342, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.