A frozen water line can be more than just a temporary hassle, it can be a major household issue. When water lines freeze it is due to cold air entering the house in unwanted areas or having warm air unable to circulate around the pipes. In order to remedy the situation, either the cold air needs to be blocked or the warm air needs to gain access. Depending on the amount of investment and the frequency with which weather turns nasty, multiple options are available to suit most any situation.
Quick Solutions for Infrequent Weather Problems
1. Close the Garage
Keeping the garage door closed and supplying an electric heater to the garage can elevate the temperature enough to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing. Since garage floors are cement and uninsulated, pipes become highly vulnerable either under the garage or with garage exposure. If garage pipes often freeze, insulating may be the only option.
2. Close Off All Outdoor Openings
Common outdoor water pipes often do not get closed during the winter creating access for frigid air. In many houses, outdoor hose bibs have their own water shut off valve in the basement along side the entire household water shut off. Shut off the water and then open all hose bibs to allow for internal water to drain. Follow the manufacture's guidelines to drain in-ground sprinkler systems. Hose bibs and sprinkler heads should then be covered with newsprint or rags and wrapped in plastic.
Moderate Adjustments for Seasonal Difficulties
3. Electric Heating Tape
Hardware and plumbing stores sell electric heating tape which can be affixed to troubled spots and plugged in. The heated tape then warms as needed providing adequate temperature for pipes to remain unfrozen. Be sure to only select tapes which have internal thermostats and can self regulate, turning themselves off and on as needed. Non-thermostat tape can easily be plugged in and forgotten resulting in an extreme fire risk.
4. Use a fan to blow warm air through the crawl space
If the crawl space to the house is interior, plug in a fan to blow warm household air through the crawl space warming up the pipes. Most pipes under the house are minimally insulated, the warm air will help to keep the chill off and allow the pipes to maintain enough warmth. Do not use a fan if the crawlspace is outside the house or if it is attached to an unheated garage as the cold air will only further escalate freezing.
Significant Improvements for Repeated Problems
5. Use Rigid Foam Insulation
Install rigid foam insulation around the foundation walls and the floor joists. Added benefit can come from using the rigid foam insulation to close and seal all exterior foundation vents which are near water pipes.
6. Insulate the Pipes
If the pipes are freezing inside the wall, cut a hole in the wall to expose the pipe to the warm household air circulate around the pipes. Use fiberglass insulation behind and between the pipes, as well as covering the exterior wall. The hole can be covered with a hinged opening for future needs.