Avoid Frozen Pipes in Your Building by Taking these Precautions
For many building owners and managers, frozen pipes can be among the most significant problems that can occur during the coldest months of the year. The following information will help you better understand what conditions cause frozen pipes and what you can do to prevent the inconvenience and costly damage that can occur if your pipes freeze this winter.
Causes of Frozen Pipes
What causes frozen pipes? The simplest answer may seem too obvious to mention: it gets cold and the water inside pipes freezes. The more accurate answer, however, can be a bit more complex. Pipes do freeze because the overall seasonal temperatures fall the freezing point. However, other factors figure in as well.
- Pipes freeze because they are not insulated: Insulation helps protect pipes and prevent freezing. Insulation helps keep warmth in and cold out. If pipes are not insulated, it is much more likely that the water inside them will reach freezing temperatures.
- Pipes freeze because they are in colder areas of your building: Some areas of your building are likely to be colder than others. This can include basements, exterior walls, crawl spaces, or more remote spots that aren’t used often. If an area of your building isn’t usually heated during winter, or receives only minimal heating, it could promote frozen pipes. Additionally, the lack of insulation in walls and other areas could help create cold zones where pipes are more likely to freeze.
- Pipes freeze because there is no water circulation: If water is moving through your pipes, it is less likely that they will freeze. If you have water supply or drainage pipes that aren’t used very often and in which water is sitting still for long periods of time, it is more likely that these pipes will freeze.
Consequences of Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes can be anything from a minor inconvenience to a major disaster in a commercial building. Pipe freezes can cause:
- Lack of access to water: When the pipes are frozen, you won’t be able to get water or use drainage pipes.
- Pipe damage: Freezing often damages pipes, causing them to crack or burst. This means that the pipes will have to be repaired before they can be used again.
- Water leaks and floods: Minor damage to pipes can cause annoying small water leaks and drips. If major pipes burst, the inside of your commercial building could be flooded by a deluge of water.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
As you get your building ready for winter, take the time to prepare your water pipes and drains for colder weather.
- Insulate the pipes: Make sure pipes are wrapped in insulation to help prevent freezing. Temperatures usually have to drop below about 20 degrees before freezing is likely, but it is still a good idea to apply insulation. Use pre-formed pipe sheaths or wrap the pipes with standard blanket-style insulation.
- Insulate the building: It may also be a good idea to insulate areas of your building that are likely to get cold. Put insulation in walls, floors, ceilings, attic, foundation, and basement. Increased insulation can also pay off in lower heating bills.
- Use heat tapes: Heat tapes are lengths of wire with embedded heating elements that warm up to heat pipes. These can be wrapped around your pipes to warm them and prevent freezing.
- Seal air leaks: Make sure that air leaks that can cause warm air to escape and cold air to get in are sealed. These cracks, holes, and gaps should be sealed with caulking. Put weatherstripping around doors and windows.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on preventing frozen pipes and dealing with pipe freezes if they occur, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!