So far the Chicagoland winter hasn’t been all that bad, but, if you’ve lived here for a while you know that the polar vortex can rear its’ frozen head at any time. While there are multiple components in your home that can be adversely affected by severe weather right now we’re going to focus on your water supply pipes.
First, try and identify supply piping that might be vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures. The first places you’ll want to check are sinks or plumbing features that are on exterior walls and non-insulated piping in places like crawlspaces or non-climate-controlled areas. The two most popular methods, while not energy efficient, do have a decent track record of being effective.
You may have heard the old saying that running water doesn’t freeze. The science behind this is pretty tricky but here is an oversimplification of the concept: while the temperature that water freezes at doesn’t change, in order for moving water to freeze it has to be much colder than the freezing point because moving water and the surrounding air mix together. As water runs through pipes the edges of the water would freeze first but the flowing water pushes the freezing surface areas downstream thus preventing the pipe from freezing. Opening the faucet on sinks, even if it’s a slow trickle, maybe enough to keep your pipes from freezing up.
While it isn’t necessary to crank up your furnace to combat frozen pipes it is a good idea to keep your thermostat set to a consistent temperature throughout the day and night. Oftentimes, in order to conserve energy costs people will utilize the programming features on their thermostats to let the house drop a few degrees while they are away (at work or school etc.). However, when there’s a possibility that your pipes could freeze every degree helps out in that prevention.
Another way you can utilize the warm air in your house is to open up cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms allowing air to reach your pipes. Also, if you have a crawlspace that isn’t climate controlled, consider leaving the access cover off to let some warm air make its way into that space. Please be responsible though regarding access covers. If you have children, pets, or a possibility that someone could get injured do not leave accesses open.
If you believe your pipes have become frozen (water slowly drips out of the faucet is a common symptom) it is important that you reach out to a plumber or contractor for help. Thawing a pipe that has frozen and cracked or burst can cause a lot of damage as water flow is restored.
Always reach to a contractor for help when needed!