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How to Keep Underground Gutter Drains From Freezing

How to Keep Underground Gutter Drains From Freezing

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Winter is here, and you want to ensure your gutter system is up to par. You cleaned the gutter, adjusted the slope, and made all the necessary amendments.

But someone suggested burying your downspouts underground to ensure water is pushed away from your property. Well, it’s an excellent idea, but before doing so, you must ensure those drains don’t freeze up in winter’s extremely high temperatures.

Don’t panic, though. There are many ways to go around this, from proper insulation to heat tapes. So read on to understand how to keep underground gutter drains from freezing.

Why Do Underground Gutter Drains Freeze?

If you live in a rain-prone area, you understand the significance and effectiveness of gutters. However, regular gutters are sometimes not that efficient in redirecting water away from your property.

As a result, water pools form under these downspouts, and water starts seeping into your property, causing severe damage. That’s when underground gutters come in handy. They’re extremely efficient as they redirect water into the underground drain pipes.

But on the flip side, they’re prone to freezing in low temperatures. How?

When the temperature gets around 20 °F and below, water in downspouts starts to freeze and form ice. Once the ice is created, it moves along the gutter drain, ruining the whole gutter system.

Icy buildups are common wherever water can settle; for example, downspout elbows are usually prone to freezing as they allow water to settle.

Many factors affect gutter freezing, such as the area, temperature, and burial depth.

How to Prevent Underground Gutters From Freezing

Luckily, there are several ways to prevent your underground gutter drains from freezing.

1 – Use Heat Cables

Self-regulating heat cables are designed to change their heat output according to the surrounding environment. When you wrap a heat cable around your downspout, it regulates the temperature and prevents ice packs from clogging the gutters.

When it rains or snows, the heating cable will generate more heat and melt the formed ice or snow, which then falls down the downspout smoothly.

Note that heat cables can be pretty expensive to install and might add up to your monthly electricity bills.

2 – Insulate Your Underground Downspouts

Insulation is a crucial factor to consider when installing underground downspouts. That’s because the underground compression forces the insulation to lose its air barrier, making the downspouts vulnerable to freezing.

To ensure your gutter system doesn’t freeze in low temperatures, check the insulation of the underground pipes and your crawl space. But what if the crawl space is already insulated?

Normal insulation might be enough for attics or crawl spaces, but underground pipes need specialty insulation to resist freezing.

3 – Use Hot Water

Pouring hot water in the top opening of your downspout is another solution to the freezing problem.

If your underground gutter drains are clogged with ice packs, climb up a ladder and pour hot water into the spout. The hot water will flow down and gradually melt the ice packs blocking the downspout.

This solution might be more effective if icicles slightly clog your downspouts. However, sometimes pouring some hot water isn’t enough, and you might need to insert a water hose inside the gutter and keep the hot water flowing for a while until it melts the ice completely.

4 – Apply a Heat Tape

Heat tapes produce heat energy when connected to a power source. The idea here is to wrap these tapes around your downspouts in extremely cold climates to increase the temperature of the downspouts and prevent the formation of icicles or snow.

Heat tapes are compatible with various types of downspout materials, such as metal, plastic, copper, and galvanized downspouts. So make sure you choose a tape that’s compatible with your downspout.

5 – Extra Tips

No matter how much you work on your underground downspouts, they’ll always be at risk of freezing if you live in a cold climate.

Not to worry, here are some precautions to take that will help you minimize the chances of having freezing gutter drains in winter:

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts thoroughly before winter. Leaves, debris, dirt, and other yard waste can entrap water in downspouts and make them freeze easier.
  • Adjust your gutter’s pitch and ensure you have at least ¼ inch of slope for every 10 feet of gutter.
  • Avoid using solid objects like hammers or so to break the ice, as this will further damage your downspouts. Your best bet is to use hot water to thaw the icicles blocking the gutter drains.
  • Periodically inspect your gutter and downspouts for gaps, leaks, breaks, or rust.
  • Use a heat gun or a hair dryer to apply heat to the areas close to the ice blockage.

Final Thoughts

Underground gutter downspouts are ideal for people living in rainy areas as they help redirect water away from their foundation. However, the cold temperature, snow, and rain often contribute to freezing these gutters.

When they get frozen, they cause significant damage to your foundation as they can break and release water into your house or crawl space.

Luckily, there are a few methods to prevent underground drains from freezing. To start, you can install heat cables that automatically control the temperature of downspouts. Proper insulation for your downspouts and crawl space is also key to keeping them warm during winter.


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