How to Repair Freeze Prone Pipes How to Repair Freeze Prone Pipes

If you’ve ever had frozen pipes then you know the frustration of waking up in the morning to find that your water isn’t working. No shower, no dishes, no drinking and no laundry. If you have kids in the house then the problem becomes even more catastrophic. Aside from the frustration of having no running water, frozen pipes can also lead to extensive damages that create the need for costly repairs. Broken pipes must be replaced. Sometimes pipes break and then the ice melts, restoring the water flow. In these instances you can end up with large amounts of damage, as the water is free to flow inside your walls, floors, or wherever else the break might have occurred.

Like many other home maintenance tasks, prevention is the best medicine. Instead of learning how to repair and replace pipes that have been damaged by freezing temperatures, spend your time and money preventing the disaster. Insulating your pipes to prevent freezing a relatively simple and inexpensive task. Though there are several different types of pipe insulation, a quick glance at their descriptions and possible uses should help you to make the right decision for your home.

The most affordable type of pipe insulation is made from foam rubber. These long, tubular pieces of foam are designed to wrap around you’re the thin copper supply lines that provide water to most of the faucets, toilets, and showers that are in your home. The most applicable place to use this type of insulation is in your basement. Oftentimes, the supply lines run along the ceiling of the basement and are exposed. If the basement is not heated, then these exposed pipes are a threat to burst if the temperature in the basement drops below freezing. Not only is this style of insulation helpful in preventing pipes from freezing, but it can also serve as heat shield on hot water pipes. Hot water that is running right out of your hot water heater can sometimes approach temperatures as high as 150 degrees. The copper can be dangerous to touch and can cause burns at this temperature. Proper application of foam insulation can ensure the safety of these hot surfaces in places where they are exposed.

The foam rubber insulation is fairly easy to install. The long tubes, typically 4 to 6 feet in length, come with one side split. This split allows you simply to slip the insulation around the pipe. You can use duct tape to secure the insulation onto the pipe once you are satisfied with the positioning. This material is very easy to work with and can easily be cut with a utility knife to work around corners or places where the pipe join and branch off.

Another form of affordable pipe insulation is made from fiberglass. It is very similar to the fiberglass roll insulation that you may have in your walls or in your attic. The kind that is designed for use on your pipes obviously comes in a much smaller roll and is faced with aluminum paper. The insulating value of this type is much higher than the foam rubber insulation that we discussed above. It would be ideal to use in garages and on main lines that may be coming directly out of the ground. It works great on larger pipes because the foam insulation will not fit on most iron pipe.

This type of pipe insulation is applied by rolling it around the pipe, similar to the way you would roll grip tape around the handle of a baseball bat or a golf club. It is fairly easy to work with because you can just cut it off and start a new section if you need to go around corners or work around cross-tees. It is best to use an aluminum furnace tape, as this will bond well with the aluminum paper that faces the insulation. If probably won’t matter much in the locations that you would be using this product, but it also looks a little bit neater if the tape matches the insulation’s surface.
The last type of pipe insulation that we will look at is a little bit more expensive, but may be a great option if you have water pipes that are exposed in some harsh areas. You can but rolls of pipe insulation that are manufactured around electrical wires. These wires function a lot like the rear window defroster in your car. A low amount of current runs through the wires in the insulation wraps and creates enough heat to keep your pipes defrosting in even the coldest climates. It’s generally recommended that you use these only when the circumstances call for it, as they can add a chunk to your electric bill.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering using this type of insulation. First, you need to have an electrical outlet handy. They have to be plugged in, in order to function. Second, they aren’t recommended for use on plastic pipes. The electric wrap pipe insulation is installed in basically the same way as the fiberglass roll. You simply wrap it around the area that you want to protect.

Whether you’re barely surviving this winter, or are simply hoping to avoid the hassle of frozen pipes next winter, utilizing any of these three methods is sure to help. They are not time consuming and even the electrical wrap insulation is not exorbitantly priced. This is an inexpensive project that you can do in an afternoon. You will consider it to be time well spent when you are able to sleep well on a cold winter night, without having to worry about what is going on with your pipes.

Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.

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