How to Avoid Pipe Freezing During Winter Months in Canada

6 Dec

Canadian winters can be harsh, and they present a serious threat to your home’s plumbing. Water expands as it freezes, which can cause your pipes to burst, thus leading to a huge headache and repair bill. The risk is not just contained to where the frozen water is located in the pipes, but can cause damage further down the line.

Exposed pipes in particular are at high risk for damage during the Canadian winter. Even tiny cracks or holes that allow cold air to get in can cause damage. If you have pipes in your attic, basement, or garage, you’ll need to take some extra precautions to prevent them from freezing.

It’s important to understand, however, that you only need to take precautions with your water supply pipes, not your drain pipes. Because of their smaller size, supply pipes tend to freeze faster. Drain pipes are larger and pressurized. They also don’t usually hold water that could be a freezing risk.

Once you understand the risk, taking precautions to protect your pipes makes more sense. Let’s look at some things you can do to prevent winter catastrophes with your plumbing system.

Ways to Stop Your Pipes from Freezing

Just because winter is coming doesn’t mean you can’t prepare your pipes to prevent damage or even bursting. The best way to do this is to keep the temperature in your pipes above freezing. Here are some things you can do at home to stop your pipes from freezing.

Cover Your Crawl Spaces

Use foam to create a temporary cover for your crawl spaces to keep the cold winter winds out. Sealing up these spaces can help prevent the cold air from reaching your pipes and causing them to freeze.

Drain Your Pipes

Water pipes that are exposed or that run outside of your home are the most likely to freeze. As a preventative measure, you should turn off the water supply to these areas and drain the water completely.

Use Heating Tape

For pipes that are outside and directly exposed to the winter weather, apply some heating tape for extra protection. There are two kinds of electrical heating tape that you can use:

  • Manual heating tape. With this type, you’ll need to plug it in and unplug it as required.
  • Self-monitoring heating tape. This kind of heating tape has a sensor that tells it to turn on when the pipes need extra heat to prevent freezing.

Close Your Garage

It almost goes without saying that you should keep your garage doors closed during winter. It can keep the cold air from getting into your home. It is especially important if you have water pipes running through your garage.

Create a Plan

Despite the cold weather, winter is a popular time to travel. If you plan on being away, the following steps can help you avoid burst pipes and costly water damage when you arrive home:

  • Turn off the water main.
  • Drain the water from your pipes by leaving the faucets running and flushing the toilets.
  • Drain your hot water tank.
  • Disconnect your washing machine hoses and drain them.
  • Have someone check in on your home occasionally.

Open Your Cupboards

Leaving your kitchen cupboards and bathroom cabinets open allows for warm air to reach your pipes, thus preventing them from getting cold enough to freeze. This tactic can be used in any room of your home where the pipes are behind cupboard doors.

Let it Drip

Allowing a trickle of water to run through your pipes can help prevent them from freezing and bursting. The risk is that water expands when it freezes, which puts extra pressure on your pipes. If you have water running consistently through the pipes, however, it will not freeze so quickly. This works especially well for faucets that are connected to pipes leading outside.

Keep Your Home Warm

It’s essential to keep the temperature in your home consistently warm, even if you are planning on being away. Turning your heat down to save money puts you at higher risk for frozen or burst pipes. It’s best to leave it at 12 degrees Celsius or higher if the home is vacant for an extended period. You should also avoid turning the heat down at night if there is extremely cold weather forecasted.

Add Insulation

When the cold weather hits, insulate your home by sealing cracks around your windows and doors. Also, add insulation to the basement, attic, and crawl spaces for extra protection.

How to Know If Your Pipes Are Frozen

If you suspect that your plumbing may be frozen, it’s important to get the problem resolved quickly to prevent expensive damage, like a burst pipe. Here are some simple ways to find out if your pipes have frozen:

  • You turn on the water, but nothing flows out.
  • There is a change in the water pressure.
  • If you notice frost on your exposed pipes, there is a good chance your pipes are frozen.
  • Foul smells coming from your pipes or drains can indicate an ice blockage along the line.

What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

When your pipes freeze, it is easy to panic, but it’s important to stay calm and assess the situation. Call a professional plumber if you suspect any of your pipes have burst as a result of freezing. If none of your pipes have broken, you can try unthawing them with the following steps:

  • Start by turning the water off at the main shutoff valve.
  • Turn on a faucet so that water can escape as it starts to melt.
  • Apply heat to the portion of the pipe where the freezing is. You can use a heating pad, hairdryer, space heater, etc.
  • Keep the heat on until your water starts flowing again.
  • Be sure to check all the faucets in your home in case another section of your plumbing has frozen.

For more information about preparing your plumbing for the winter and other professional plumbing services in Mississauga, call Brothers Plumbing at 1-800-742-8471 or contact us here.

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