Unoccupied Homes and Frozen Pipes can be Bad News

Prevent frozen pipes in vacant homes. What’s worse than a major home maintenance disaster? How about several major home maintenance disasters at once?

Pipes freeze for a combination of reasons: quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, thermostats set too low, or running out of heating fuel. Both plastic and copper pipes can burst when they freeze, and recovering from frozen pipes is not as simple as calling a plumber. Frozen pipes can cause a huge amount of damage; unlike natural disasters, this disaster is largely preventable.

Don’t be one of those families that has their homes ruined and their lives disrupted because of frozen water pipes. Frigid nights can very quickly turn to ongoing, inconvenient, extremely expensive ordeals.

As you are aware, we are entering an extended period of frigid weather. Predictions are that we may see record breaking low temperatures this week and that this below normal pattern may be with us well into January of 2018.

During this period of time, it is important that you think about your normal habits for heating your house, and be certain that you are not putting your property at risk to have pipes freeze.

Most do not think about the fact that most of their heating pipes, and very often their plumbing pipes, are on outside walls and thermostats are always on an inside wall. Being aware of this can result in a significant difference between the room temperature at the thermostat location and where pipes are on the cold exterior walls.

Here are some preventive measures to help avoid these events:

  • Keep your thermostats set at the same temperature both day and night in all areas of the house. If you normally turn back the thermostats at night discontinue that practice until temperatures moderate. It is advisable to even keep the temperature of your home warmer during extreme cold periods.
  • If you have a wood stove be careful not to fool the thermostat into thinking there is plenty of warmth in the house and then freeze pipes on the outside walls. It is best to shut off the stove and use your central heating system until temperatures moderate.
  • Do not isolate rooms by closing doors. This can make those areas much more likely to freeze.
  • If you have water pipes that you think might be prone to freezing, let the hot and cold water drip overnight.
  • Open doors to kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities to allow better air circulation.
  • Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and piping and seal them up. Small openings, especially if windy conditions exist, can allow enough cold air in to freeze a pipe.
  • Insulate pipes that are in crawl spaces or in areas that could be prone to freezing.
  • If your house is going to be unoccupied or vacant for any period of time, it is your responsibility to make sure you have an adequate supply of fuel and arrange for temperature monitoring of your home.
  • Either have a friend or neighbor check your house daily or set up electronic temperature monitoring while the house is empty. If you are going to be away from your home do not turn the thermostat down too low.
  • Keep your garage doors closed in case there are pipes in that area or in the ceiling or walls that could freeze.