Many homeowners worry if their infrastructure will survive the harsh winter months. However, simply knowing how to keep pipes from freezing in crawl spaces can be an immense relief.
If your house has been weatherized, the extreme cold may not affect the internal temperature of your home. Yet, can the same be said about the area under the house, inside the walls, and in the attic?
Frozen water pipes lead to a wide range of problems, including leaks, mold infestations, and inconsistent water pressure. Plus, broken pipes can be very costly to fix or replace. Luckily, preventing pipes from freezing in the winter is easier than you think.
In this article, we’ll discuss when you need to consider this risk and a few solutions to help you out.
Yes, this is a possible outcome depending on where you live and how winterized your home is. For example, in the winter, when the outside temperature is under 32°F, non-insulated water pipes in a crawl space could freeze and block the flow.
This is actually a bigger problem than just disturbing the water flow indoors. That’s because, eventually, the frozen pipes can rust, leak, or even burst due to the water expansion and increase in the water pressure.
Plumbing maintenance isn’t fun, but it’s always better to detect a problem before it blows up — quite literally!
Here are some signs to look out for because they might mean your pipes are about to burst:
- The water pressure is inconsistent between high and low.
- Snow forms on the outside of the pipes.
- The tap runs cold water despite opening the hot side.
All these are indications that there’s frozen water in your pipes. To learn about how to save your pipes, continue reading.
To prevent your water pipes from freezing this winter, you have a few solutions under three difficulty levels: easy, DIY, and professional. Depending on your skill set and budget, some of the following options may be more fitting than others.
Let’s take a closer look at some tips and tricks to consider:
Let’s begin with the easy stuff. If you’ll do nothing else to your pipes, the best practice is to keep the thermostat on your water heaters constantly warm. By this, we mean 24/7 and all week long.
Some people like to turn off their water heaters at night or when they’re out on the weekend to reduce their heating bills.
However, this may result in the water freezing in the pipes. It’s also worth noting that fixing a leaking or burst pipe will be more expensive than the extra money you’ll spend on heating your water.
In addition to keeping your water warm, you might also want to keep the heating system turned on all the time. Usually, it’s best to set the temperature at around 55°F or higher, even when you’re not home.
You wouldn’t want to come back from your week-long Christmas break only to find frozen and broken pipes in your basement. Again, keeping the heat on may cost you a little extra cash, but it will be less than the price of fixing severe damages.
When the weather is cold, remember to close your garage doors immediately after parking your car or getting it out. This way, you can ensure that the indoor temperature doesn’t drop too much.
Besides the garage, it may be wise to close the vents in your crawl space during events of extreme weather to prevent cold air from circulating inside. Then, once the weather is better, open the vents to avoid moisture build-up that can cause mold to grow in your crawl space.
In addition to closing the doors and vents, you can try sealing all cracks and crevices in the walls that allow cold air to enter the house. These cracks include even the smallest holes, like the ones used for cables and around window sills.
While closing some doors, vents, and wall cracks can help keep the cold out, other doors are better left open. For instance, you can try to open your kitchen cabinet doors, like those under the sink, to allow the air from the house to warm the pipes.
Additionally, when you know that a cold snap is coming, let your taps drip to prevent the formation of ice. Even though the water drops may be really cold, the flow will stop the process that turns it into ice inside the pipes.
Remember, you should only let your faucets trickle on extremely cold days since this can be extremely wasteful if you do it all the time. According to the Energy Protection Agency, a leaky faucet can waste up to 3,000 gallons in a single year!
Now, we move on to the next level: the DIY zone.
One quick fix for cold pipes is insulating them with pipe wraps made of fiberglass. They’re effective in lowering the chances of your pipes freezing.
There are different brands of pipe wraps, and they can be fitted on PVC or metal pipes. In addition to temperature insulation, they’re also waterproof, which means they’ll reduce the likelihood of your pipes rusting.
If you have long pipes, pipe sleeves might be a better fit than the traditional wraps. These look similar to pool noodles that are slit open on one side through which you cover the pipes.
Typically, these sleeves are made with rubber or foam, and they can measure up to six feet. Remember, the sleeves come in different sizes, so make sure you’re getting the right fit for your pipes.
To install foam pipe sleeves, measure the length of your pipes and cut an equal size of pipe stick. Then, slit it open on one side if it’s not already cut by the manufacturer.
After that, you can push the pipe sleeve onto the pipe and secure it with duct tape on the ends. Just don’t forget to cover pipe corners too.
Heating tape is wrapped around cold pipes and uses electricity to warm the pipes. This method will not only keep your pipes from freezing but also unfreeze them when the need arises.
There are mainly two types of heating tape to consider for your crawl space.
The first is the self-monitoring type, which automatically detects when the temperature has dropped. Meanwhile, the other is the manual one that you plug in and out when you need to heat the pipes.
The problem with heating tape is that it’s been linked to fire outbreaks, especially when it becomes too old or if it was improperly installed in the first place. So, for safety reasons, it’s better to let a professional install heating tapes on your crawl space pipes.
One option to consider is to hire a professional contractor to come and evaluate the pipes in your crawl space. It might seem drastic, but it’s the ultimate and most effective way to keep your pipes from freezing, especially if you live somewhere with long and harsh winters.
If your crawl space is exposed to the outside, the movement of cold air and wind all over your pipes is sure to turn them to ice as a freezer does with ice cubes. To block the air, a contractor may use foam pieces secured with tape to cover the walls and floors in the crawl space.
They might also choose to fill the gaps between pipes with expanding foam or foam Caulk rope. Caulk can be great for waterproofing and keeping your pipes lasting longer.
Plus, when you hire a professional service to insulate your crawl space, you’ll maintain a relatively constant temperature and eliminate the moisture build-up from condensation. This can be a great plus for reducing mildew formation.
Keep in mind that the cost will change depending on each case, and you’ll need to get an estimate first.
Figuring out how to keep pipes from freezing in crawl space can be tricky, but the right tactic can save you a lot of hassle on future repairs. Depending on the situation in your home, there might be a few options to consider.
If you live in an area with mild winters, there are some simple steps to add to your routine, like regulating the water temperature, closing garage doors, and leaving kitchen cabinets open. You might need to try some DIY wrap or foam insulators if that doesn’t cut it.
In extreme cases, the only effective solution could be hiring a contractor to insulate your entire crawl space. This happens to be the most costly option, but the company could also help you fill all the cracks that may bring cold air into your house.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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