Protecting Your Home From Freezing Pipes

Save time, money and frustration with these best practices to protect your home from freezing pipes.

Heat Tape Your heat tape is essential to preventing frozen pipes. It is a thin wire run along the water line from your home down into the ground. When plugged in, it provides just enough heat to prevent the pipe from freezing. After installing the heat tape, the water line is then wrapped in insulation. Heat tape uses very little electricity and can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs. Here are some best practices for your heat tape:

  • Always ensure your heat tape is plugged in and working when the weather drops. To test your heat tape, touch the heat tape itself once plugged in and you should feel warmth. Don’t assume the light near the plug means the heat tape is functioning properly. We have seen heat tape last from 1 to 10 years so check it regularly.
  • Make sure there are no gaps in the insulation around your pipe. Check from the ground all the way into your home. If your home has a water meter, this meter has been insulated and there is space for heat tape to run through.
  • When installing heat tape, you can take extra precaution and circle the heat tape around the water line (versus running the heat tape in a straight line along the length of the water line. It will require more heat tape, but it will also provide more protection in some of the record deep freezes we have experienced recently.
  • While a proper pitch ensures that water won’t sit in a sewer line and freeze, you can take extra precaution and run heat tape on the underside of your sewer line as well to prevent any freezes in your sewer.

Allowing Water to Drip While running water to prevent freezing is both wasteful and a violation of the rules and regulations, a slight drip is permitted during extreme cold to prevent a freeze.

Checking Your Home and Skirting – There are several areas to check to minimize the chances of a freeze:

  • Your skirting should not have any holes or missing pieces. Any gaps in your skirting or improperly installed skirting will likely result in your pipes freezing during drops in temperature.
  • Check the underside of your home for any holes in the sub-floor or insulation
  • Check for any leaks in your pipes and broken seals around your doors and windows.

What to do if your pipes freeze Do not panic! This can be fixed and resolved. When your pipes freeze, it can be for a variety of reasons from faulty heat tape, to inadequate insulation, and even holes in your skirting. Here are a few tips on how to unfreeze your pipes:

  • Know that frozen pipes can rarely be fixed using a blow dryer and once frozen, simply turning on or replacing heat tape won’t be enough to unfreeze them. What is required is a “Torpedo Heater” – a commercial-grade propane-powered space heater that is available at some hardware stores. Even with this, expect it to take 2-3 hours to unfreeze.
  • If you do not have a torpedo heater, call a plumber. Make sure they have a torpedo heater and can assist with unfreezing your pipes. They should check your heat tape, insulation, and pipes for damage.