Provided by Nationwide Insurance
We saw some of the coldest temperatures in Alabama last week and we stayed below freezing for several days. This type of event will test your plumbing system and expose areas that are not protected. As a kid, I can remember coming home from school to an indoor fountain blasting through the sheetrock in our living room. The second time it happened it was just like the first. Same pipe different year. I think dad had the pipe insulated better the second time but I can also guarantee when it gets cold that pipe has a steady stream of water running not just a drip.
Most plumbing should be run in “conditioned” space so just maintaining heat in the home will keep the pipes above freezing. Opening cabinet doors to allow more heat to the pipes inside helps. Most of the frozen pipes we are seeing this year are in exterior walls and a few attics. The attics are a strange place to have plumbing as they are not “conditioned”. I spoke to a water mitigation professional yesterday and he said in some of the new construction they are running “pex” pipe in attic space and then connecting it back to copper for the final fixture connection. These areas are allowing air from the attic into the wall right where the copper connection is made. This air is freezing the pipe and causing major damage when they thaw. The Pex pipe will expand with the freezing water so it is less susceptible to rupture but it seems the change in practice needs some fine tuning.
Plumbing in exterior walls is typically run to a faucet outside. Getting heat to this pipe can be a challenge. You can try wrapping the faucet or buy some insulating type device to protect it from the cold. The other option is to let it drip or run just a bit. Some home are built with a shut off for the exterior pipes so that can be drained for the winter.
If you notice any pipes not flowing or frozen it is time to act. Do not wait for the ice to thaw and water to erupt. Make sure you turn your water off and contact a plumber. It is also a good time to investigate the cause and find a solution for the next time mother nature send down some arctic air.