Everyone knows it can get hot in the attic, but the big freeze of 2021 taught us that it can also get very cold. Here is how to prevent your pipes from freezing in the attic.
More than a year may have already passed since the big freeze that hit Texas in February 2021. But the vivid memories of roads covered in thick layers of ice, the subzero temperatures, and the widespread power outages will likely remain frozen in the minds of every Texan who experienced it.
Thousands of families were caught unprepared by the calamity, causing over 200 fatalities and upwards of 100 billion dollars in losses and damages.
As the weather becomes more and more unpredictable these days, it is important that we level up our cold weather preparedness so that when the next wicked winter storm strikes, we can peacefully lay down in safety in the comfort of our own homes.
Every winter, thousands of homeowners across America worry about their water pipes freezing due to subzero temperatures.
According to field tests conducted by the University of Illinois’ Building Research Council, when you reach the temperature pipes freeze (20° F or below) at, exposed pipes in spaces like attics, garages, or crawl spaces are most vulnerable to freezing.
Pipes burst because when water freezes, it expands and creates pressure in the plumbing system. When there’s too much pressure in the freezing pipes, the pipes start to crack.
Many people think that only those in typically cold climates encounter problems with freezing pipes. That is actually a grave misconception. In reality, homes in warmer climates are more prone to iced pipes problems because they are often built and designed for warm climates. Hence, the pipes and plumbing are often exposed to the outdoors or are uninsulated against extremely freezing temperatures.
So, how to prevent pipes from freezing? What’s the best way to insulate water pipes in your attic, garage, or crawl spaces?
Here are some helpful steps on how to keep pipes from freezing, including the pipes in your attic.
As a general principle, remember that the pipes that run through your attic space are connected to a bigger plumbing ecosystem that runs throughout your entire house. This means that it is not enough to just insulate your attic water pipes but to take care of the water supply pipes that run through your whole household.
The methods and tips below may sound counterintuitive to some, especially in terms of conserving water or energy. But remember that it is much better to pay for these extra expenses than to pay thousands of dollars to repair burst pipes, fix the flooding inside your house, or renovate your home because of water damage.
The most common advice to keep pipes from freezing is to let the faucets drip during cold weather. This is not only because it takes longer for running water to freeze, but also because it relieves pressure in the plumbing system which prevents pipes from bursting.
It is usually enough to let slow trickles drip from one sink to avoid pressure buildup in the system. If a pipe serves both hot and cold water, slightly open both faucet taps to keep the water pipes from freezing.
Also, it is best to choose the farthest faucet from your home’s water supply source so that the water can pass through as many pipes in your home as possible.
To protect your pipes from freezing, it is also advisable to disconnect your garden hoses, drain the water, and cover your outdoor spigot.
If your spigots are not frost-proof, you must close the shut-off valve that supplies the faucets, drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator.
Exposed pipes are more prone to bursting when the temperature drops to freezing levels. These include pipes or any plumbing in unheated areas or exterior walls.
Frozen outdoor pipes can collapse the entire water system of your house, so the best way to insulate pipes is to start from the outside in.
Drive to the nearest home improvement store and buy foam covers to cover any outdoor pipes and save yourself from the hassle of having to deal with frozen or burst pipes. You can further insulate with old t-shirts and towels if necessary.
Another basic and surefire way to keep your pipes from freezing is to keep your interior doors open such as the doors of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Pipes usually run through cabinets. By opening the cabinet doors, you are allowing heat and warmer air from the rest of the house to flow to the pipes that run behind or beneath them.
Aside from cabinet doors, it is also advisable to keep other interior doors open to allow heat to circulate throughout the entire house.
Now that we have discussed the methods of protecting pipes from freezing, let’s zero in on attic pipe insulation to keep the pipes warm and protected.
Pipes in attics and crawl spaces are often exposed to cold air, making them susceptible to freezing.
Insulating water lines in the attic is simple. There are available foam pipe insulations that you can wrap around the pipes to keep them warm. You may also use thermostatically controlled heat tapes with internal heat cables that automatically turn on at certain temperatures.
Aside from insulating your attic pipes, the best thing to do is to insulate your entire attic. A frozen pipe in the attic can affect the entire water line throughout the house, so insulating the attic will come a long way in keeping the home safe and warm.
You may opt to use rolled insulation or blown-in insulation throughout your attic to help maintain warm temperatures in your attic space during cold weather. Not only will attic insulation protect your pipes, but it will also make your home more energy-efficient and will help you avoid other winter-related problems such as condensation.
The cold air that passes through small gaps and holes on the walls causes the temperature to drop inside the home, which could potentially freeze indoor pipes.
Airseal your attic by locating holes that let cold air in. Use spray foam insulation to seal holes, window cracks, or openings on doors. If possible, seal the gaps or holes on both the exterior and interior sides of the wall to make sure that no air is passing through.
If you’re planning to stay away from your house for an extended period of time during extremely cold weather, make sure to keep your heating system on inside your house. The recommended temperature is 55° F. Anything lower can leave your home vulnerable and could potentially cause your pipes to freeze.
Besides keeping the heat on, you may also consider turning off the water supply when you’re leaving the house for a long time during the winter.
Contact a professional plumber to drain the water system and inspect your pipes before leaving.
These are just some of the most proven ways to protect your pipes from freezing and bursting when the winter hits.
In the case of a frozen pipe, leave the faucet on, locate the frozen pipe, and apply indirect heat. Do not use a propane heater, blowtorch, or any open-flame device. Instead, you may use a space heater or a towel soaked in hot water to thaw the ice. When all else fails, the best thing to do is to call a professional plumber to deal with the situation.
Before cold weather comes and the temperature freezes your pipes, consider consulting a plumber for the best pipe insulation to prevent freezing.
And make sure that your attic space is properly and sufficiently insulated to protect your water pipes when the temperature drops to critical levels by scheduling a free audit with an attic specialist at Superior Attic. Rest soundly when the temperatures drop next winter knowing you and your family are protected.