Beating the Freeze: Preventing Frozen Pipes

We’re positive you didn’t ask for the severe weather arriving this week, but mother nature plays no favorites. But here we are, faced with reports that the polar vortex originating in the Midwest will move on to Pennsylvania this week, eventually hitting the entirety of the Northeast. It’s about to get very, very cold.

For many of us, we prepare by examining our food supplies, sources of power and heat, clothing options, and transportation. We go into full preparation mode. If you are a home or business owner, this sense of preparation is heightened. In doing our part to help you prepare, we have a few thoughts on keeping your indoor plumbing safe from freezing and potentially bursting.

Frozen Temperatures Can Lead to Frozen Plumbing

In areas of the country where severe drops in temperature is expected, and even in regions not known for severe lows, the “temperature alert threshold”, a measure of when indoor plumbing is at risk, sits at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This week, and frequently in our region of the country, we drop into the single digits. With risks of temperatures dipping into the negatives this week, it’s time to take notice.

Your piping most at risk is located in spaces where heating doesn’t easily access such as basements, attics, crawl spaces, and garages. Even heated areas like your kitchen and bathroom sinks are at risk. Freezing temperatures rushing past pipes in these areas can quickly freeze and burst, causing thousands in damage, loss of keepsakes, and an insurance nightmare.

None of us want the headache. Here’s what you can do to prepare.

Pipe Sleeves and Insulation

When wall insulation isn’t enough, pipe insulation generally does the job. For relatively low cost, pipe insulation or pipe sleeves can be installed by you or a contractor for added plumbing protection. In tandem with adequate water flow and warm air, it’s a very effective way to mitigate the potential for frozen pipes.

Pipe insulation is available at thicknesses ranging from 2 to 4 inches. We recommend spending a little more for the thicker option. The total cost to install is likely much less than the cost to repair severe home damage.

Now let’s look at what to do during a severe cold spell.

What to do During the Freeze

If you are able to install pipe sleeves or insulation, you are well on your way to having peace of mind. There are, however, a few extra measures you can take to better prepare.

Leave your kitchen and bathroom sink cabinets open. Doing so allows warm air to enter the space and prevent freezing. If there is minor freezing, this may help the pipes thaw as well.

Maintain a slight drip or trickle of cool water from all sinks. The continual flow of water will generally prevent pipes from freezing in the first place.

Use a space heater. While it’s not necessarily recommended to use a space heating the bathroom, employing them in other areas and rooms in your home for a little added heat is a safe idea. Make sure they are plugged into outlets with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (common wall outlet), and do not use with extension cords.

Keep the garage door closed. This is especially critical in garages with water supply lines.

Maintain the temperature on your thermostat all day and night. A consistent temperature, in particular one set to above 60 degrees, will prevent frozen plumbing.

Away during the freeze? Keep your heat on, and maintain a temperature of 60 degrees or higher.

Smith Propane & Oil

Smith Propane and Oil is primarily a distributor of residential heating oil and propane to western Pennsylvania. We offer payment plans and automatic delivery so you can leave tank monitoring to us. Please visit or contact us at 800.814.2822 to learn more.