Whether your home’s pipes are made of plastic or copper, if the water inside them freezes, the pipes may burst, putting your plumbing and your property at risk. Frozen pipes are a highly common and frustrating cause of winter damage to homes. A quarter of a million of homes are damaged by frozen water pipes each winter, according to estimates by the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. Shockingly, a pipe with a crack as tiny as one eighth of an inch can leak up to 250 gallons of water per day, affecting your floors, furniture, and personal property.i Furthermore, repairing broken pipes, plumbing, and meters can be costly.
Luckily, there are many simple actions you can take to help reduce the risk of frozen and burst pipes. From raising the temperature on the thermostat to installing an automatic water shut-off system, these tried and true tips can help homeowners safeguard their homes throughout the colder months. Our Private Client Group advisors recommend these 12 ways to help protect your pipes and your property this winter:
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1. During extended periods of sub-zero temperatures, be sure to set your home’s thermostat to at least 60 degrees. This helps ensure that the temperature is adequate throughout your home, and especially in colder areas. Make sure that you set your thermostat to at least 60 degrees if you are planning on being away from home.
2. If you have kitchen or bathroom cabinets that run along the outer walls of your home, open the doors to these cabinets. This allows warmer room air to circulate through them. If you have children or pets, be mindful of any chemicals stored in the cabinets.
3. Shut off any exterior water faucets, and drain the remaining water from the pipes to prevent freezing.
4. Still water freezes faster than running water. On a particularly cold night, turn on a faucet at the highest point in your home. Keep the water stream low—this allows a very small amount of water to trickle through the pipes running through the colder spaces in your home.
5. If you’re planning to be away from home for an extended period of time, turn off the water. This may not entirely prevent frozen pipes, but it can help reduce the damage.
6. If you’d rather not turn off the water for the duration of your trip, you may want to ask a neighbor or friend to check on your home once a day while you’re away. Ask your friend to check the thermostat and make sure your home is warm enough—above 60 degrees.ii Your friend can also help by checking your faucets. If he or she turns on a faucet and only a few drops of water appear, then you may have a frozen pipe, and your friend should shut off the water in your home and call the plumber. Make sure your friend knows the number for your plumber and the location of your main water shut-off valve.
7. Install an automatic water shut-off system. These systems can help stop water flows when a leak occurs. Contact your independent insurance advisor for more information on approved devices.
8. Add several low-temperature sensors to your central alarm system. Place the sensors in remote areas of your home.
What to do if a pipe freezes or breaks
1. If you suspect that you have a frozen pipe, call your plumber immediately—once the pipe thaws, it may burst. (Remember this tip: if your water meter is running, but your water is not, then you may have a frozen pipe.) If your pipe has already burst, locate your main water shut-off valve and close it to help minimize water damage to your home.
2. If there is flooding, move undamaged items away from the affected area. Move all wet items into a dry room or a room with fresh, circulating air. Remove wet rugs or carpeting from the affected area as quickly as you can. If you are storing items outside, be sure the area is secure to help reduce the risk of theft.iii
3. Do your best to remove the water and begin to dry the affected area quickly. Reach out to your insurance agent as soon as possible to help your claims process run smoothly.iv
4. If you find that you cannot remove the water and dry the affected area quickly on your own, then call an emergency service restoration company to begin the dry-out process and start repairs. Save your receipts from the clean-up, as your insurance agent may want to see them.v
For more advice on how to protect your home against the risk of frozen pipes, view our Private Client Group’s tip sheet here.
The content contained herein is intended for general informational purposes only. Companies and individuals should not solely rely on the information or suggestions provided in this article for the prevention or mitigation of the risks discussed herein.
i “Preventing Frozen Pipes.” Michigan State Police Emergency Management & Homeland Security, 2017. http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-72297_60152_70432-342721--,00.html. Accessed 10 Jan., 2017.
iii “Handling Water-Damage Claims.” Texas Department of Insurance, Jun., 2016. http://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb074.html. Accessed 19 Jan., 2017.