To avoid the expense and inconvenience of frozen, broken water pipes, Denver Water has some tips to get ahead of cold-weather plumbing breaks.
To keep your pipes from freezing, Denver Water recommends the following:
- Keep open cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes (such as access doors for sinks), so that household air can warm them. The natural flow of warmer air will help combat many problems.
- If you have an attached garage, keep its doors shut. Occasionally, plumbing is routed through this unheated space, leaving it vulnerable to winter's worst.
- Crack a faucet farthest from the place where your water enters the house. A very slow drip will keep water molecules moving, reducing the chance that pipes will freeze. Place a bucket underneath the faucet so the water can be saved for other household uses.
- Keep your thermostat set above 65 degrees when leaving your house or business for several days.
- Insulate pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold or have caused problems before. Pipes close to exterior walls or in unheated basements or crawlspaces can be wrapped with pieces of insulation. Don't overlook pipes near windows, which can quickly freeze. For particularly difficult pipes, consult a professional on how to select and apply heat tape.
- Know the location of your water shut-off switch and test it regularly. If a pipe breaks, you won't want to have to find it then or, worse, wait for someone to arrive at your place to find it for you. In most single-family homes, the shut-off valve is in the basement or the crawlspace, on a wall facing the street.
- If you didn’t get your sprinkler system off and drained this year, make sure to check for leaks when you turn on the system next spring.
If you think a pipe has already frozen, do the following:
- Don't wait for nature to take its course: Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call a plumber for help.
- If you do it yourself, shut off the water or test the shut-off valve. You don't want water suddenly gushing from the pipe when it thaws.
- Remember: When thawing things, slower is better.
- A hair dryer trained at the frozen area of the pipe is appropriate. A blowtorch is not. Pipes warmed
too fast may break anyway.
Certain steps, taken early, can help prevent pipe breaks when the mercury dips:
- Know the location of your water shut-off valve and test it regularly. If a pipe breaks, you won't want to have to find it then or, worse, wait for someone to arrive at your place to find it for you. In most single-family homes, the shut-off valve is in the basement or the crawlspace, on a wall facing the street.
- Turn off and drain automatic and manual sprinkler systems before first freeze. You'll thank yourself in the spring. The alternate freezing and thawing of water in the system can create cracks and weak spots, triggering silent underground leaks or mini-geysers.
- Turn off outdoor faucets and be sure to disconnect hoses from them. Make sure the faucet and the outside portion of the pipes are fully drained. A valve inside many houses will shut off the water's flow; then open and close the tap outside to release any water in the pipe. Disconnect the hose to assure that freeze-proof faucets will drain and to avoid damage to the hose from freezing water.
- Winterize unheated or vacant buildings. Significant property damage and water loss can occur before burst pipes are discovered in vacant buildings. If your vacant building has a fire protection system, make sure there is no danger that the water servicing this system might freeze.
- Insulate water pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold or that have caused problems before. Pipes close to exterior walls or in unheated basements can be wrapped with pieces of insulation. Don't overlook pipes near windows, which can quickly freeze. For particularly difficult pipes, consult a professional on how to select and apply heat tape.
More tips are available on Denver Water’s Web site, www.denverwater.org, or by calling (303) 893-2444.
Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918 as a nonpolitical municipal agency independent of City government, it is Colorado's oldest and largest water utility.