Here are a couple of ways to protect your outside faucets.
And this first tip wonít cost a thing! Try wrapping the outside spigot with newspaper, and make sure you bunch up the paper at the elbow. Then secure it with either electrical tape or string. Since the cold winds play a big role in freezing pipes, protect the spigot from wind chill by covering it with a bowl or bucket. You may need to attach the bowl to the house with more tape!
Or if you have time before the winter storm hits, you can go to your local hardware store or home center to purchase a jacket for your faucet. A faucet jacket is actually like a thick insulated bag. Place it over the spigot and make
sure that it fits snug against the wall and pull the drawstring tight.
When the warm weather returns, simply remove the jacket and keep it in a dry place for next year. A winter coat your faucet can wear again and again!
Right now is a good time to survey all exposed water pipes, including those in crawl spaces. For winter protection, turn off outdoor faucets at their sources and drain them before the temperature gets too low. To prevent sweating pipes, and to insulate them from the cold, cover outdoor and crawl space water pipes with lengths of pipe insulation.
Here are some more tips you may be able to use if you pipes should indeed become frozen.
Pipes are more likely to freeze in places that have been previously frozen, unheated rooms, attics, crawl spaces and in exterior walls.
Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are especially vulnerable to freezing if there are cracks or openings that allow cold air to flow across the pipes. For example, holes in an outside wall where cable or telephone lines enter the house can provide access for cold air to reach pipes.
The first thing to do when the pipes freeze is turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
Then be sure to open all water faucets. If you are lucky at least one or more of the faucets will at least drip or have a small amount of water coming out. Since this small trickle of water is not frozen it will melt the frozen water, which it is flowing over.
If your pipes are completely frozen and you cannot get any water at all, you will need to thaw them out. Using a hair dryer is perhaps the safest way to thaw out pipes. A blow dryers can thaw frozen pipes quickly and safely.
You really donít want to use a propane torch. A torch can cause a fire if the flames get close to wood or other materials that will burn and frozen pipes will be the least of your worries.
If you insist on using torches, usually propane, or other types, you must be especially careful to keep from starting a fire. it's best to use an insulator when around wood or other things that burn easily. Try using a piece of "sheet rock" or "gypsum board." Most fires that are started by torches are started by careless use. And remember this, if there is a fire there is no water available to douse on a small fire if it gets out of hand. If thatís not enough, in addition to a high risk of fire, there is also danger of overheating a section of pipe. Excessive heat in one spot can cause water to boil in the pipe and possibly explode. In short, donít use a torch!
If you have a crawl space, check any areas where cold air can enter. Apply heat to the first place you find where enough cold could enter to freeze your pipes. Continue applying heat until you have covered all areas, which are cold.
Heat lamps and electric space heaters can help. Be careful that when using heat lamps and space heaters that you don't overload circuits. Be sure to use a good grounded outlet to prevent electrical shock.
If you live in the south be careful not to get over confidant. Usually many homebuilders in the South donít usually consider the threat of freezing water. They tend to place water pipes in vulnerable locations. Whatís more, their pipes may not be insulated properly because severe cold weather is so uncommon. For these reasons, southern homeowners need to be especially careful because even in Texas and Florida there are occasional cold snaps where the temperatures can fall below freezing for several days.
And speaking of feeling over confidant, if you have plastic pipes you are just as vulnerable to freezing pipes as those who have metal pipes.
If you live in the north in the summer and the south in the winter, donít forget your northern home during the winter. You donít want to set your heating for any lower than 55 degrees even if you are not there. 55 degrees is the lowest temperature at which the furnace should be kept. It shouldn't be any lower because the setting on the thermostat will be only the air temperature near the thermostat. The temperature along the outside walls, near windows and under cabinets will be lower.
Even if the crack is only an eighth of an inch wide, or about the size of this hyphen "-", 250 gallons of water can be released in one day. It's easy to see how thousands of dollars of damage can happen if you're gone from the house when the pipes freeze. For example, if you're gone on vacation for a week and a kitchen sink pipe bursts, you could open the front door to almost two inches of water on the entire first floor!
In the winter watch the weather forecasts carefully. When the temperatures drop below 20 degrees, water pipes in homes without adequate insulation may freeze and break. This holds especially true if there are strong winds blowing (we talked about wind chill earlier, this is where that bucket comes in handy). When cold snap hits you area be sure to turn your faucets on immediately. Leave them running just enough to have a constant dripping. It will not necessarily prevent a pipe from freezing, but in most cases it will prevent it from bursting. Water can still freeze even if it is moving. The importance of letting the faucet drip is having it open, which provides relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there isn't any excessive water pressure, then a pipe can't burst, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.
Here are a few final tips for protecting your pipes.
1. As we already mentioned, insulate exterior pipes and fixtures.
2. Let a small stream of water (at least the size of a pencil lead) flow the faucet that is farthest from the incoming line. There is no need to turn on every faucet in the house.
3. Open the cabinet doors under the sink so the pipes can stay warmer, especially if the plumbing is on an outside wall.
4. Do not uncover your water meter pit if it snows. The snow acts as an insulator the colder arctic air and thus keeps the water line from freezing.
5. Eliminate drafts. Check crawl spaces, ventilation grates, and access doors and window wells. Plug any holes. This action will help reduce your heating bill also.
6. Disconnect yard hoses and in-ground sprinklers. Drain them, and if possible, store them where the temperature stays above freezing.
7. Check your service line. How deep is the line that comes from our main into your home? To avoid freeze-up in Indiana, it should be buried 4 feet or more. If you have a shallow line, there is little you can do about it now, but consider having it relocated next spring. It will be cheaper and less trouble than digging through frozen ground to thaw frozen pipes in the dead of winter.