How Can I Prevent My Pipes from Bursting in Texas?

By Vernon Trollinger, January 23, 2018, Energy Efficiency, Home Improvement, Save Money

During cold snaps like the ones Texas has been experiencing over the past couple weeks, pipe insulation can be the difference between getting through it with ease and an expensive mess.

How Can I Prevent My Pipes from Bursting in Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

How Do Pipes Freeze?

Texas plumbers installing water lines to homes follow the common practice of laying the water line almost right to the outside wall and then putting in a pipe that rises vertically from the ground to connect to the household supply line. It’s this section of pipe, usually 1 to 4 feet tall and 3/4” in diameter, that freezes in cold weather if it’s left uninsulated.

Water pipes will freeze during cold weather when the water is not flowing. That’s why letting faucets drip slightly during cold weather is frequently recommended as front line defense. While you might prevent your pipes from freezing, you’ll also add to your water bill — but that’s still better than having cracked water pipes.

As ice forms inside the pipe, it expands. At first, the ice will just travel up the pipe until it is stopped because of a bend or a valve. If freezing continues, ice will continue expanding and ultimately burst the pipe.

Not all pipes are made the same and so different types of pipes burst in different ways.

  • Galvanized pipe— Usually resists splitting open lengthwise. However, expanding ice tends to jam up at 90° bends and T-joints where it will either split out the back of the elbow joint or T, or crack out the pipe threading in the joints.
  • Copper— Copper is a very soft metal and will split apart wherever the force of the expanding ice is strongest.
  • Plastics such as PCV and CPVC — Plastic gets brittle in cold temperatures and will burst anywhere on the pipe as soon as the ice begins expanding.

How to Insulate Your Pipes

Insulating your water lines is both easy to do and incredibly inexpensive. Foam pipe insulation comes in standard sizes and is available in a variety of thicknesses from 3/8” to 4”. Just cut it to length and wrap it around the pipe. Seal it in place with zip ties or vinyl duct tape, or you can buy self-adhesive foam pipe insulation. You can cut and bend the insulation over bends in the pipe or you can buy pre-molded 90° bends or T’s. Just make sure everything is firmly sealed from the outside air. Once it’s in place, you can leave it there year ‘round.

If you have a sprinkler system attached to this water line, you’ll also need to make sure that those lines are insulated as well. The pressure vacuum breaker (PVB),

How Can I Prevent My Pipes from Bursting in Texas? | Bounce Energy Blog

Protect your plumbing. Self adhesive 3/4″ foam pipe insulation is cheap and it takes hardly any time to install.

however, is usually not insulated. Ice forming inside the valve can damage the rubber diaphragm that makes the valve work. If your system has a backflow valve, be sure that you turn that off first. To prep the PVB valve for freezing weather, turn off the water supply to the valve. Next, open the siphon valves (some times called bleeder valves ) on the side of the valve assembly with a screwdriver. This will let water drain from the valve. To be on the safe side, wrap the whole valve in a towel or an old blanket and then cover over with a plastic bag. This will insulate the valve if any water is left inside plus protect the the siphon valve opening from any dirt getting inside.

For hose bibs and outside faucets, disconnect the hose to drain water remaining in the valve. Next, place an outdoor foam faucet cover over the spigot to protect it from freezing. If you don’t have one, you can wrap newspaper around the spigot and hold it in place with by tying a plastic bag around it or even using a plastic coffee can.

Although you attic might retain enough warmth, uninsulated water lines in your attic run the risk of freezing. Chance are good that you’ll spend far less money and time slipping foam pipe insulation over those exposed water lines than you will if one of those lines cracks or bursts.

On homes with little insulation, pipes can freeze in places that get little air circulation even if they’re inside your home. In that case, you’ll want to open the cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to let the air keep these pipes warm and turn the taps on far enough to dribble.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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