How to Prevent Frozen Pipes and Damaging Floods

We’ve already had our first freeze here in Albuquerque! That means there’s not a minute to spare in cold-proofing your plumbing to prevent frozen pipes. 

Here are some steps you should take right now so you never have to walk onto flooded floors and carpets first thing in the morning. 

  1. Keep cabinet doors under sinks open so warm air can reach the plumbing. (If there are children or pets in the home, remember to secure chemicals and household cleaners in another area.)
  2. Keep garage doors closed to hold in heat, especially if water pipes run through the garage which happens quite often.
  3. Let faucets flow slightly overnight or during cold spells. This relieves the pressure which keeps the pipe from bursting. You need more than individual drips – get the tiniest steady flow you can.
  4. Seal any gaps in places where the pipes run through walls or floors. You can use caulk or spray foam insulation for this task. This keeps cold air from seeping in.
  5. Insulate pipes in areas that are not heated, like attics, basements or garages. There are special sleeves you can get at home improvement stores that fit these pipes. In most cases, you also need to insulate the area. This is especially true for mobile homes or plumbing on the north side of houses that will not get sunlight. Just be aware, insulating pipes will help but it may not be a complete solution. You may also need to implement the other suggestions on this list as well.

Pay special attention to pipes that run along outside walls as these pipes are more exposed to cold air. If there’s any way to insulate them, it would be a very good idea. 

About Pipe Insulation

There are all types and sizes of pipe insulation. There are black foam tubes which cover the pipe; thick foam-and-foil insulated tape; fiberglass wrap kits; and under-lavatory protectors. These types of simple insulation are usually quite inexpensive.

If you have areas that are hard to insulate but are particularly susceptible to freezing, consider heat tape or heat cable kits. The tape or cable in the kits is secured to susceptible pipes and then the power supply is plugged into an outlet. The tape/cable heats up to keep a pipe from freezing. 

This solution could be very useful at high altitudes where the freeze is so severe that nothing else will keep the pipes flowing. But be sure you get the right kit for the pipe you need to heat. Some of these kits are made specifically for metal pipes and others can be used with either plastic (PVC) or metal pipes so be sure to choose the right one for your situation. 

Warming Cold Rooms

Some rooms might need supplemental heating to prevent frozen pipes. You might find there is no choice but to add a space heater to the room. Remember to avoid using an extension cord with a space heater. And always choose a heater with a plug that has a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for improved safety. That’s the little circuit breaker located on the plug. The heater should also automatically shut itself off if it is tipped over. 

What If the House Is Unoccupied? 

Perhaps you’re a landlord and you have empty homes or you’re going to be away from the home over the winter. Here are the special steps you should take for an unoccupied house, in addition to all the above:

  1. Before winter, inspect doors and windows for gaps and caulk or otherwise fill them. Don’t forget weatherstripping for doors.
  2. Keep the heat set at 55 degrees (F).
  3. Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve; then open up the faucets and drain the toilet. Keeping faucets open prevents any pressure building up from the small amount of water that will remain in the pipes. 
  4. Have someone check the home after a severe freeze. This is vital if you have left the water on in the house. If the pipes have frozen, you need to know before the house becomes flooded and causes many thousands of dollars more in damage. 

If you need help with these tasks, give us a call. We can help you winterize your home and install heat tape or heat cable kits in susceptible areas. 

And while we hope you never need it, if your pipes do freeze, call us immediately. We’ll thaw them out safely and without damage to your plumbing. 

If there’s a leak after a freeze, shut off the water at the main valve and call us. We’ll get the broken pipes fixed pronto so you can get on with your life. 

No one wants to experience frozen or broken pipes, but if it happens, we’ll be on the site quickly to minimize the damage and discomfort. Call Rocketman Plumbing at (505) 243-1227 whenever you have a plumbing emergency. We will be there rocket fast!