Even in Georgia, weather stations often predict a hard freeze for Atlanta and surrounding areas. This means temperatures will drop to freezing or below several days in a row. Many homeowners are asking, "How can I prevent frozen and broken water pipes?"
Why Do Pipes Freeze and Break During a Cold Spell?
When temperatures drop below freezing, water freezes and expands. A gallon of water will expand to a volume of 9% greater than that of the original gallon. The expanding water in your home's waterlines causes the pipes in your home to crack or burst under this pressure and possibly flood your home or business. Pipes that freeze first are generally located near outside walls or in unfinished areas of your home where they can be exposed to the subfreezing temperatures. Outdoor hose bibs, pool lines, indoor and outdoor sprinkler systems, and other supply lines located in crawl spaces, garages, unfinished basements, or attics are especially susceptible.
Steps to Prevent Frozen Pipes
An ounce of prevention before cold weather sets in can literally save you thousands of dollars in water damage from broken or burst pipes. Following the steps below can significantly reduce the chances of having a plumbing emergency during the cold winter months:
- Protect all outside exposed water line shut-off valves including outside water faucet hose bibs, water softener equipment, pool equipment, and sprinkler systems. Be sure to include any backflow preventers if installed. Be sure to protect all valves as well as the water piping itself.
- Turn off the shut-off valves to all outside hose bibs. Be sure to open the valves on the outside to allow all the water to drain out of the pipes.
- Keep garage doors and basement entries closed tightly if there are any water supply lines or valves in that area.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors (during the freeze warning) and all other cabinet areas that are located on outside walls, this will allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing keeping pipes above freezing.
- Protect all exposed water piping. Insulate all areas where water supply lines are unheated. Keep in mind areas with running water outside (fountains, outdoor kitchens, etc..), crawl spaces, garages, basements, attics, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets that are up against an outside wall. Both hot and cold water lines should be insulated in these spaces. A hot water supply line can freeze just as fast as a cold water supply line can freeze if water is not running through the pipe.
*Note: Outside hose bibs with vacuum breakers could prevent the water from draining down the incoming water riser.
- During frigid cold snaps, do not alternate temperature settings on your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night will help to keep pipe temperatures consistent. If leaving for an extended period of time, do not set the thermostat below 60 degrees F.
- If you have water pipes in your attic, open access doors or stairs to allow warm air to circulate into the attic and around the pipes.
- Don't forget to check and protect your water heater during cold temps. Installing a Water Heater Blanket can protect your water heater and help maintain temperature.
*NOTE: If the home is vacant or if you are going to be gone for a long period of time, additional steps not included above, will be necessary to properly winterize your home.
What If I Experience a Broken Pipe?
The single most important thing for any homeowner to know is where the main water shut-off valve is located and how to use it. Ensuring each member of your household knows how to turn off the water to your home in the event of a water line break or water heater failure can prevent severe flooding and damage in the event of a critical failure. For instructions on locating and using your shut-off valves please refer to our article: How to Shut Off the Main Water Line.
Should you experience a frozen or broken water line pipe, our technicians are on-call 24/7 and can help you locate your shut-off to mitigate the damage as well as repair the pipe.
My Georgia Plumber provides plumbing and gas service in the North Metro Atlanta area. Cities include Canton, Woodstock, Alpharetta, Holly Springs, Milton, Ball Ground, Cumming, Kennesaw, Marietta, Acworth, Buckhead, Duluth, Roswell, Johns Creek, Suwanee, Sandy Springs, Cartersville & White.