In places like Oakland Twp., Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Southeast Michigan in general, winter is renowned for its frigid temperatures and massive snowfalls. With these conditions come concerns for frozen pipes. If the pipes in your home freeze and burst, then you have one hot mess on your hands, and it’s a costly one. Think it won’t happen to you? Experts estimate that about 250,000 homes every year are damaged due to frozen pipes. But the good news is that you can take steps to prepare your home and help prevent frozen pipes.
How do frozen/burst pipes occur?
Water is a unique substance because unlike other substances, when it gets colder and freezes, it actually expands. This can be disastrous for plumbing systems because water is trapped inside the fixed space of the plumbing tubing (often made of copper). As the temperature in a house drops and the water inside of plumbing pipes begins to freeze, this ice formation begins to expand and put pressure on the inner walls of the pipe itself which can cause them to burst. In most cases, the ice formation redirects pressure through the pipe to an end-use, like the main water supply. This is why pipes generally don’t burst where ice has formed. Instead, they burst somewhere else down the line.
What can you do about it?
Since it’s the ice that causes problems, it’s best to focus your attention on preventing conditions that allow ice to form in the first place. We’re not suggesting you can influence Mother Nature, but you can influence the temperature within your home:
- Make sure your home’s heating and cooling system is properly maintained, especially before leaving for extended periods of time during the winter. Dirty flame sensors, hot surface igniters, and other electrical parts within a furnace can work one minute and fail the next. So it’s important to have them checked for reliability at least once per year to ensure they’re safe for the upcoming heating or cooling season.
- Consider upgrading your thermostat to an internet enabled model. Here at Aladdin Heating & Cooling, we strongly recommend the use of internet enabled thermostats for homes that are frequently vacant during extreme weather conditions because these thermostats are able to alert you via text messages and e-mails if your home is in the danger zone of freezing. It’s completely automated and doesn’t require a person to physically visit the home. Sensors can even be installed to monitor the presence of water on basement floors and alert you in the event of a water leak. These thermostats can be installed for roughly $500-900 (including the cost of the thermostat) and can save you tens of thousands of dollars in water damage, plumbing repairs, and furniture replacement costs.
- Insulate. Applying insulation around your plumbing pipes will keep warmth inside of them. You can apply heat tape, thermostatically-controlled cables or insulation around the pipes to maintain temperatures. This is a particularly important step for pipes that are located in areas of your home that don’t receive heat, like a basement.
- Insulate again. Upgrading the insulation throughout your home will keep more heat inside — no matter what the outside temperature is.
- Seal air leaks. Air leaks that occur through your home’s exterior walls allow cold air to infiltrate the space. Sealing them keeps cold air out, and warm air in.
Homeowners who proactively take the steps to prevent frozen pipes are much less likely to experience problems. For all your home heating and cooling concerns, contact the leading furnace and boiler experts of Oakland Twp., Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Shelby Twp. at Aladdin Heating & Cooling. Serving Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties since 1945.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about preventing frozen pipes and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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