You may assume that your recent purchase of a historic home with a basement means that fears of frozen pipes are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country where winter temperatures regularly dip below freezing levels, even an enclosed basement may not be enough to protect your pipes. Read on to learn more about some of the signs your pipes may be at risk, as well as what you can do to ensure a leak-free winter.
When do pipes freeze?
Many homeowners are cautioned to leave a faucet running whenever nighttime temperatures are predicted to dip below the freezing level. Because moving water has a lower freezing point than stationary water, the flow of water through a faucet can provide the movement needed to keep things in a liquid state.
Those in homes with pipes that are entirely (or partially) outside, like manufactured or mobile homes that don't have a foundation slab or basement, may also benefit from the application of "heat tape" to the pipe surfaces. This tape, as the name implies, generates its own heat to keep the pipes and water inside from freezing during a cold snap. But homeowners with basements to house their plumbing may assume that these anti-freezing methods are no longer needed as long as the basement stays at an above-freezing temperature. Unfortunately, this assumption can often have dire consequences. Although the air temperature inside your basement may be well above freezing, if the surfaces your pipes touch (like the foundation wall or basement floor) are at or below freezing, frozen or burst pipes may still be a risk.
There are a few things you can do to warm your pipes up without having much of an impact on your heating or water bills. First, make sure your pipes are exposed to warmer, circulating air. If your plumbing is locked away in a basement closet, it won't benefit from the heated walls, floors, and ceiling the rest of your house has to offer. By opening the door periodically to allow warmer air to circulate around your pipes, you'll be able to avoid an expensive plumbing mess. (If improving air circulation isn't an option, the application of heat tape may provide a similar effect.)
You'll also want to keep your faucets running just slightly if you're planning to be away from your home for more than an overnight. Doing so won't significantly increase your water bill and is far more likely to save you the cost of a burst pipe (and the cost of repairing any resulting water damage to your home).
To learn more, contact a plumbing company like Walt's Plumbing.