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There are several measures that can be taken to prevent winter water disasters.

  •     Locate and mark the main water cutoff valve for your home. This cutoff valve is usually found near where the water line comes into your house.
  •     Damage from running water can be minimized if you can turn off this valve quickly.
  •     Make sure the water line to outside hose bibs are turned off and the line is drained.
  •     Consider wrapping or insulating your water pipes, especially those pipes near outside walls, under the house, or in the attic. Insulation supplies are available at your local home improvement/hardware store.
  •     Find a Toronto contactor to install heat tape on particularly vulnerable pipes.

Eliminate drafts. Check around the home for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas and take measures to prevent the flow of cold air in these areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if water is not running through the pipe, and the water temperature becomes cold.

  • If your water pipes do freeze, never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch. You can use a hair dryer or portable heater, but always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
  • If you will be away from your home, keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature and open doors to make sure all areas with water pipes are kept above freezing.

What if I lose the heat source in my Toronto home?

If you are staying in your home, or will be monitoring your home frequently, allow a faucet to drip cold water slowly.  At a minimum, the dripping faucet should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main water cutoff valve.  Also, consider allowing a slow drip in areas that are least protected from the cold (basements, crawl spaces, attics, the garage).  But, remember even moving water will freeze at 20?F.

If your water pipes do freeze, never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.  You can use a hair dryer or portable heater, but always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before Cold Weather, Prepare

  •     Make sure that all the garden hoses outside your home are disconnected. Failing to do so can cause not only the hose but also the hose bib to which it is connected, to freeze and be damaged.  This is especially important with “frost free” hose bibs. The hose must be disconnected to make the faucet freeze-proof. Failure to do so will trap water in the faucet body, which then can freeze. If the hose is disconnected, the anti-freeze faucet can properly drain, and this will prevent freezing.
  •     Water pipes which are exposed to freezing temperatures or drafts should be covered with insulation. Whenever possible it is best to drain systems not being used in severely cold weather. Small water pipes will freeze quicker than will waste or sewer pipes.
  •     Prevent drafts of frigid winter air. Secure all crawl space openings or windows and insulate and caulk any cracks in the structure’s foundation.
  •     Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer. Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted tightly and joints wrapped with tape. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for installing and using these products.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventive Action

  •     Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  •     Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  •     When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
  •     Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  •     If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55?F.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

  •     Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  •     Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials) or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
  •     Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  •     Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Draining Plumbing in a Vacant House

If your house is to be vacated during cold weather and the heating system turned off, follow this procedure:

Shut off the water supply at the main shut-off valve at the street. Then beginning with those on the top floor, open all faucets and leave them open. If available, open the cap on the main shut off valve drain the remaining water. Remember to reinstall this cap when complete.  Shut off and drain all hot water tanks.  Make sure all horizontal pipes drain properly. Air pressure will get rid of trapped water in these pipes, but occasionally the piping may have to be disconnected and drained. To be safe have your plumber check your entire plumbing system.

Remove all water in the p-traps under sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and laundry, use a wet vacuum or other method to siphon the water out. Sponge all the water out of the toilet tank and bowl.

Fill all traps with a DEQ approved non-freezing solution such as mineral oil, windshield washing fluid or RV type anti-freeze.

If your house is heated by hot water or steam, drain the heating pipes and boiler before leaving, following the equipment manufacturers recommendations.

Mister Plumber the leading Plumber in Toronto, ON for 24 hour service. With professionally trained licensed plumbers, top quality parts, and fair prices, your plumbing problem will be fixed correctly and in a timely manner. For exceptional service for any type of plumbing issue, call today to set up an appointment or emergency service. Call us 416 939 1530 or fill the form for Online Free Estimate.

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