With temperatures dropping below freezing around the country, pipes in unheated areas are subject to freezing. That can spell disaster and result in hefty expenses to fix the mess.
In fact, one burst pipe running at four to eight gallons per minute can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage in a matter of minutes, according to WaterSignal, a green technology company focused on water conservation.
Water is unique in that it expands as it freezes. As the water in pipes begins to freeze, the expansion places tremendous pressure on the pipe wall. Regardless of quality and strength, expanding water can cause pipes to break.
The most common pipe freezes occur on those exposed to frigid temperatures such as outdoor hose bibs and water supply lines in unheated interior areas.
Before chilly temperatures set in for the long haul, WaterSignal recommends that building owners/managers:
1.) Locate the property’s shut off valves and make sure they work.
2.) Drain the water from swimming pool, sprinkler and hose bib supply lines.
3.) Identify potential problems in areas where pipes may subject to severe cold (outdoor faucets, walls, ceiling, crawl spaces, windows, etc.). Hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
4.) Seal gaps around the property where cold air may penetrate and become in contact with piping. Even the tiniest opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
5.) Consider installing specific products such as insulating domes, pipe sleeves or UL listed heat tape to prevent freezing.
In the event of pipe freezing or “no flow” situation:
1.) Turn off the property’s main water valve and leave the faucets open until pipes thaw.
2.) Do not apply open flame, electronic heaters or hair dryers directly to the piping. Patience and a warm environment are the best way to thaw pipes without causing damage.
3.) When turning the main water valve back on, have one person slowly turn the valve on while another person walks the property to be sure no water is leaking.
If water is flowing, immediately turn off the property’s main water valve and open faucets in the lowest part of the property, i.e., basement laundry sink.
Water monitoring technology that continuously reads the water meter and wirelessly sends real-time data to a website portal allows managers to view the property’s water consumption by month, day, or even by hour. If a major leak occurs, much like an energy surge popping a circuit breaker, the device immediately alerts the manager or engineer that a water spike above the preset limit has occurred.
The alert can be sent to both a computer and a smartphone for the manager to act upon and can be customized for business hours, as well as after hours and weekends.