In past decades, the building codes in Boulder had no special requirements for a home’s insulation. As a result, frozen pipes are a problem that we see commonly in Boulder’s older homes. We sometimes see frozen pipes in newer homes where a carpenter or insulator made a mistake and the builder didn’t catch it before the drywall was installed. Inadequate insulation leaves your pipes vulnerable to freezing when temperatures drop, and the Front Range has more than its share of deep freezes during winter.
With any home maintenance concern, taking the necessary steps to prepare for potential issues can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. In this first installment of our series on frozen pipes, we will offer some helpful tips for preventing this problem before it ever occurs.
If you want to help reduce the chance of your pipes freezing tonight (if it is very cold), here are some short-term solutions:
1) Open the cabinets below your kitchen or bathroom sink if they are on an exterior wall of your home, to allow the heat from your home into the cabinets.
2) Let your faucet drip a little to keep the water moving; this can help prevent the water from freezing. It can also relieve the pressure on the pipe caused by the ice if it has already frozen and expanded in the line.
3) Blow out your lawn sprinkler system before cold weather arrives.
3) Make sure you have removed all garden hoses and drained them, because they will freeze well before any interior pipes.
4) If you go on vacation in the winter, don’t turn your home thermostat below 50 degrees, and keep in mind how cold areas like your basement or crawlspace may get if you do turn the thermostat down this far because these areas may run much colder than where your thermostat is located. If you have a vented crawlspace with pipes in it, call us to fix this before it becomes a costly problem.
5) If you have a crawlspace full of water pipes, and DON’T have a furnace or hot water heater located in the crawlspace that requires air to burn, you can temporarily block off the perimeter crawlspace vents to keep the cold air from reaching the vents. This should ideally be done by a professional like Eco Handyman, who is certified to “condition” crawlspaces with radon systems, vapor barriers on the floors, insulation, and air-sealing around the perimeter.
This solves frozen crawlspace pipe issues 99% of the time, but should not be taken lightly. You want to insure that your home stays safe, with good indoor air quality. You don’t want to inadvertently solve the frozen pipe issue, but create a mold, radon, or carbon monoxide problem in the process.
NEVER block up your perimeter crawlspace vents if you have a furnace or hot water heater in this space. Many homes in Boulder have furnaces and hot water heaters on the main floor that have a grill in the floor allowing the open crawlspace to provide combustion air, and sealing up the crawlspace may reduce the available air. Check with a qualified professional who can run a “worst case depressurization test” on your home, which helps reduce the chance that your furnace and hot water heater will “back-draft” and spill exhaust gasses into your home. We do this test on all our home energy retrofits.
Frozen pipes are a very stressful and costly problem for homeowners. If you have additional questions or would like to speak with a member of our team about preparing your home for winter in Boulder, please contact us through our website or via phone at 303.444.2181. We are happy to help you take all of the necessary steps to keep your home safe and comfortable this season.