January tends to be the coldest month in the Dallas Fort Worth region. The average high is 57 and average low 36. While these numbers don’t raise immediate cause for alarm, they can fluctuate. With freak storms and severe weather occurring with greater frequency, it’s good to know how to keep pipes from freezing when the mercury drops.
The lowest recorded temp in the Dallas area was -8 in 1899. Obviously, this was an anomaly that hasn’t repeated since, however, Dallas has consistently had below freezing temperatures every winter in the past decade. With that in mind, it’s time to be sure that your home’s plumbing is protected from winter weather. Outdoor pipes and the plumbing along outside walls can be vulnerable to freezing and even bursting. Learn how to prevent pipes from freezing during cold weather.
Why Are Pipes Freezing in Texas?
Unexpected cold weather like we experienced in the winter storms of 2021 can cause Texas pipes to freeze. In a survey, 16% of responders said their pipes froze or burst during the historic storm. In the year prior, State Farm Insurance reported 75 claims for frozen or burst pipes for the entire year. By February 2021, they had received 29,000 claims. Clearly, many Texans weren’t prepared and didn’t know how to protect their pipes from freezing.
The problem with homes in Texas and other southern states is that our plumbing is often exposed. Our pipes run along outside or uninsulated walls or through crawl spaces and attics where cold air can penetrate during these types of cold weather snaps. Once water begins to freeze, it expands and puts stress on your pipes. It’s not the ice but the water trapped within that usually causes your pipe to burst.
8 Ways to Protect Pipes from Freezing
There are several steps you can take to prevent your pipes from freezing or causing a costly break. Be proactive when cold weather hits to ensure your home remains safe.
1. Pipe insulation
Insulating pipes that run through cooler, at risk areas of your home can protect them from dropping temperatures. Foam pipe wrap insulation is inexpensive and easy to install. It also provides a vapor barrier to prevent corrosion and stop pipe sweating. Make sure you purchase the right diameter of insulation for your pipes and use insulating tape to adhere it.
2. Heat tape or cables
Wrap pipes for cold weather. Hardware stores sell several electrically powered pipe wraps that can raise the temperature of your pipes. Make sure you only purchase tested and approved products and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. These devices are also effective at thawing out pipes where ice has already formed.
3. Let faucets drip
During cold weather, let faucets drip to keep water moving through your pipes. Moving water resists freezing and keeps your pipes fluid. If your pipes do freeze, make sure you leave your faucets open so that melting water has somewhere to go.
4. Open cupboards.
Pipes that may be out of sight are at risk. Let the warmer air in your home reach pipes under sinks and behind cabinets.
5. Keep your home warm.
Don’t let your thermostat dip below 55, even when you leave for vacation. If you do leave for vacation, have a neighbor check on your home. On especially cold nights, keep your home at a warm, consistent temperature.
6. Seal drafts.
Stop the flow of cold air into your home and around pipes by sealing cracks and openings where cold air enters.
7. Protect outdoor faucets.
Remove and drain hoses from outdoor faucets in the fall so that water within doesn’t back up into your faucet. Cover faucets to prevent ice from getting.
8. Drain sprinkler and pool lines.
Protect your pool pipes from freezing by emptying them. Outdoor supply lines are more susceptible to freezing. When these lines are filled with water they can crack or burst. Follow the instructions for your system to empty the standing water or contact a plumber for help.
For more info on preventing and thawing frozen pipes, see Texas A&M’s winter storm guide.
What To Do If a Frozen Pipe Bursts
There are many ways to thaw a frozen pipe. If you failed to notice your pipes freezing and you’re now facing a burst pipe, act immediately!
Shut off your home’s water supply. The quickest and easiest way to stop water flowing out of a burst pipe is to close the supply at your main shut off valve. Your main shut off valve should be located near your water meter where the water supply enters your home. You’ll either have a ball valve with a handle that you turn perpendicular to the supply pipe or a gate valve with a knob you turn clockwise to shut off the water.
Call a plumber. Repairing or replacing a burst pipe can be a difficult job and is best left to a professional. A certified plumber can cut in, replace or rejoin pipes and make certain that all work is up to local building codes. They can also assess whether any other areas of your plumbing system have been compromised by the burst.
Prevent Frozen Pipes in Texas
Don’t wait for a storm to wreak havoc on your plumbing. Take steps today to protect pipes from freezing before they’re at risk. Texas may not experience a lot of cold weather, but you want to be prepared when it does. If you need more help learning how to keep your pipes from freezing in cold weather, schedule an appointment with Ben Franklin today. We’re always happy to answer questions about frozen pipes in Plano, McKinney and Carrollton along with the greater Dallas area.