How to Protect Your Building Pipes in Winter
When temperatures plunge during the winter months, the risk of frozen pipes increases significantly. Here are some ways to protect building pipes and keep your plumbing system working and your building safe when it gets cold.
Why Protect Building Pipes?
Protecting building pipes in the winter will help you prevent problems such as:
- Indoor floods: Frozen pipes tend to break and burst, which can easily cause indoor flooding. Stored merchandise, office equipment, furnishings, electronic files or paper records, and machinery can be destroyed by floods. The structure of your walls and floors can be harmed by flooding. The property of any tenants can be damaged or destroyed, leading to costly insurance claims or even lawsuits.
- Burst pipes, broken fixtures, or frozen water meters: Damaged pipes and fixtures will have to be replaced, which could be a major job. If your water meter freezes or is damaged, your utility company will most likely charge you to replace it.
- Lack of water or drainage: When pipes are frozen and in the aftermath of damage, you won’t be able to get water for your facility. Similarly, frozen drain pipes will not be able to remove wastewater from your building.
When Pipes are Most Likely to Freeze
Building pipes are most likely to freeze when temperatures drop to about 20 degrees or below. The lower the outdoor temperatures get, the more likely it is that unprotected building pipes will freeze. Even marginally protected pipes can freeze if temperatures drop low enough.
Techniques for Protecting Building Pipes
Preventing problems from frozen pipes can be made simpler by following some or all of the following procedures.
- Insulate pipes: Protect building pipes by applying insulation to plumbing and drain pipes throughout your facility, especially in areas such as in crawl spaces, unheated garages, large warehouse or storage areas, or near uninsulated exterior walls. Your plumbing contractor or building supply store should carry pre-made insulating sheaths that fit around pipes. Otherwise, wrap pipes with standard blanket-style insulation.
- Apply heat tapes: Heat tapes are lengths of electrical cord containing heating elements. When they are wrapped around pipes, they generate enough heat to keep water in the pipes from freezing.
- Insulate exterior walls: Apply insulation to walls that form the outside boundary of your facility. This will protect nearby pipes and help keep the entire indoor space warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
- Stop air leaks throughout the building: Locate and eliminate as many air leaks as possible in your facility. This will keep cold air from getting in and affecting your pipes. It will also make the indoor environment warmer and more comfortable by stopping the loss of heated air. A beneficial side-effect is that your indoor heating bills will decrease since less heat is being wasted. Repair any broken or cracked windows. Seal and caulk around door and window frames and casings and around glass in windows. Apply foam or rubber weatherstripping around doors and windows. Install insulating storm doors and windows. Find cracks, gaps, holes, or other openings in the frame of the building and seal them with caulk or other appropriate material. Check your heating system’s ductwork to make sure the sections fit together properly and that the connections are all sealed to prevent air leaks.
- Improve daily practices: When entering or exiting the building, make sure doors are open for only as long as possible. Close doors tightly when going in or out. Let a thin stream of water flow out of faucets to keep water moving through the pipes. Open cabinets and other areas containing pipes to let warm air get to them.
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 how to protect building pipes and prevent freezing during the winter, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!