When temperatures start to dip below freezing in Georgia, it can be a miserable time for homeowners. Not only do frigid temps mean higher gas or electric bills, a dip below 32 can cause the pipes in your basement or crawlspace to freeze and potentially burst, resulting in a headache that can cost both time and money. What should you do to protect your pipes when there is a freeze warning in Georgia? Read below to learn why pipes freeze and what you can do to protect your home when the mercury plunges.
What temperature do pipes freeze?
Pipes burst when cold weather causes the water inside them to freeze and expand, putting pressure on the pipes’ inner walls and joints. As we remember from science class, water begins at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, though you don’t need to start to worry about your pipes freezing the moment the thermometer hits that mark. Because of the insulation in your home and the heat radiating from within, you actually have a bit more leeway before you should be concerned about your pipes being damaged by ice. The general rule of thumb is that any time the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees, you should take action to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting.
If you have an older home or are concerned that your pipes be more exposed and vulnerable during a hard freeze, a licensed plumber can do an inspection to identify any weak spots. Pipes that are most likely to freeze in sub-20 degree weather include pipes made of steel or copper, pipes located on the outside of the home, or pipes in areas of the home that are unheated such as the attic, basement or crawl spaces.
How to prevent pipes from freezing
Whether you rent or own a home, frozen pipes can cause major problems in Georgia and happen more often than one would assume. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps that you can take when the temperatures take a dramatic dip into the teens that will keep your pipes from bursting.
1. Let Your Faucets Drip
The first and easiest way to prevent a frozen pipe is to drip a faucet overnight, preferably one outside like a spigot. You don’t need to turn the water on very much, a tiny trickle will do, but this small step will help your pipes in two big ways. First, running water is less likely to freeze than water that may be collecting within. Keeping it moving even a little bit can discourage an icy buildup. Second, if the water does manage to freeze, keeping the faucet open helps to relieve pressure, easing some of the tension being applied to the inside of your home’s plumbing.
2. Open Cabinet Doors
When it comes to the pipes underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks, a simple trick to keep pipes warm is to open up your cabinets before you head to bed. This will allow the heat circulating within your home access to warm your pipes. It might not seem like much, but even if you turn your heat down to 60 overnight, that’s more than enough warmth to stop ice from forming.
3. Keep exposed pipes warm
If your home has a garage with exposed pipes in it, try to keep it as warm as possible. Don’t leave the garage door open for prolonged periods of time, and check around the doors and windows for any gaps or holes that could be letting cold air in. If your garage is attached to your house, leaving the door to the garage open overnight can help the warm air from inside your home to circulate inside the garage. Never leave an electric space heater on overnight in your garage and do not ever use any heating devices that require fuel such as kerosene. A fire can be far worse than burst pipes.
4. Insulate Pipes
If there are exposed pipes in your home that you feel are in need of additional protection, hardware stores carry a rolled foam insulation that is perfect for keeping pipes shielded from chilly temperatures. Made of a thick polyethylene foam, this insulation wraps around the pipe, keeping cold air out. Simply fit the foam snuggly around the pipe and secure it in place with a bit of tape. Think of it like a winter jacket for your pipes!
While Georgia is known for its hot summers, we’re no strangers to cold weather, and wintertime temperatures cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to homes across the state every year. A burst pipe can cost a homeowner on average of $100-200 per foot to repair, and that isn’t even including the damage water can cause to your floors, walls and furniture. Take steps to make sure your pipes are kept warm and protected from the elements, and your water should keep flowing all winter long.