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RBC I In Western Colorado, where the temperature routinely drops to 20 degrees or below, it will be worth your time and energy to prepare and maintain your home to prevent your pipes from bursting. Pipes burst when an ice blockage forms and the pressure builds up behind it. While you won’t have ice shooting into your home, you’ll have all of the water that has built up behind it—in the basement, in the crawlspace or through the walls of your house.
Proper insulation is the first step to preventative maintenance. The unheated areas of your house are the most important to insulate. Attics, basements and crawlspaces are the general culprits. Polyethylene or fiberglass tubes are available to keep the cold out of pipes. You’ll want to measure the diameter of the pipes and purchase the correct size. This will ensure you have to make only one trip to your home supply store.
Pipe insulation is carried in most big box stores and in all hardware and home supply stores. It can be cheaper in the spring months—prices tend to go up as the temperatures drop and demand goes up. You will want to be particularly aware of any pipes that have been stressed by previous freezing or have recently been installed.
If you experience significant periods of severe winter weather, you might consider wrapping pipes in heat tape before insulating them. The instructions for installation are very specific, and it is essential to follow them. If you don’t, the heat tape can lead to fires. Heat tape also has to be checked regularly to ensure it is still functioning effectively.
Once you’ve taken all of the prerequisite steps, you’ll still have some maintenance to do to ensure you don’t wake up in a puddle.
When the temperature is expected to drop, turn on your faucets, particularly those that flow along outside walls and are the most exposed to the cold. This will reduce the pressure and can prevent an explosion in the pipes, even if an ice dam does form. Opening cabinets that contain pipes will let the warm air from the rest of your house flow onto the pipes, keeping them warmer.
You can take one more step and check the basement and garage for any leaks. Look particularly for places where cold air could be directly applied to pipes from cracked windows, gaps or areas where the insulation has worn away. Applying your general insulation strategies will save money on your energy bill, and it can also keep your pipes warmer and delay or prevent a freeze.
Preventative maintenance is never an attractive fix. It’s neither a new skylight nor a fresh coat of paint, and it won’t be instantly noticeable.
Pipe insulation and maintenance, however, will add to the value of your home in the long run by preventing costly damage and a nasty surprise in the middle of the night.