In a place where hurricanes are the main event each year and winters are typically quite mild, the town of Kingwood, Texas was not prepared for days of below freezing temperatures in February of 2021, and neither were their pipes. Let their tales from a winter freeze be a welcome wakeup call so you can avoid the issues many Texans faced during that time.
Temperatures reached a low of thirteen degrees Fahrenheit, and below freezing temperatures were experienced for an estimated forty-four hours consecutively. And with much of Texas’ power grid down, residents experienced rolling outages that lasted for up to two days or more in some areas, which left homes even colder without heat and their pipes less protected.
The Kingwood freeze of February 2021 was one of the coldest winter events on record, but it wasn’t the only record being broken. Much of the town’s residents had a record number of pipes that froze and then burst, creating hundreds if not thousands of dollars in water damage as well as a shortage on plumbing supplies.
Their story does not have to be yours in the event of another historic freeze if you learn how to take the proper precautions now, before winter arrives. By protecting your home against a freeze and knowing what to do if a pipe should freeze, you could avoid costly repairs and the headaches that can come with them.
How to Help Prevent Pipes from Freezing
While you cannot control the weather, you do have the power to be proactive in preventing pipes from freezing. Some of the ways to help prevent a pipe from freezing are:
Turn off water to the home before the freeze.
This means turning off the main water supply to your home via a dedicated valve. This can keep water from flowing through the pipes in the middle of a Texas freeze, which helps reduce the potential of a pipe bursting from water expansion.
Drain the pipes.
While turning off the water supply is helpful when expecting extremely cold temperatures, it does not necessarily empty the pipes of existing water. To completely drain the pipes, turn on all faucets, tubs, and showers until no more water comes out. Be sure to remember to turn everything back to off once the pipes are empty.
Insulate the pipes.
Insulating a home’s pipes can take different forms. For exterior water spigots, it is best to cover them with materials that will protect them against the harsh temperatures. Some individuals use towels and duct tape while others use ready made products from the hardware store. To insulate indoor pipes, some homeowners use foam or fiberglass insulation to keep pipes from freezing. If you have questions about what products are best to use, reach out to a trusted and reputable local Kingwood plumber.
Open the cabinets and keep the home warm.
By keeping cabinet doors open in the home, it lets the warm air generated by the heater circulate inside, which can help keep a pipe from getting too cold. This step is critical for the duration of a freeze, especially in the colder overnight hours.
Let faucets drip.
If a homeowner chooses not to turn off the water to their home, it is critical to let the faucets continually drip so it keeps the water moving and makes them less likely to freeze.
What to Do If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe
You know the temperature is below freezing outside and for longer than it usually is, but how do you know if you have a frozen pipe? Some of the signs that you a have a frozen pipe can include:
- Low water pressure
- Toilets that flush but do not refill with water
- Pipes covered in frost
- Pipes that appear disfigured
- No water pressure
- Weird smells emanating from drains and faucets
A frozen pipe that has not yet burst, might still be saved. To address this type of situation, it may be helpful to use a hairdryer or warm towels to gently thaw a pipe.
However, in the instance that you hear a loud clang with no other sensible explanation, it may be the sound of a pipe bursting from water inside it that has frozen and then expanded. If you suspect you have a frozen and potentially burst pipe, there are a couple of steps you can take right away:
- Make sure the water supply to the home is turned off. This is key as when the pipe begins to thaw, if the water is still being supplied to the house, it can make water damage much more extensive.
- Keep the heat on. Heat from the home helps indirectly keep pipes warmer than they would be without it. If you have power, make sure the heat stays on to help protect your pipes.
- Call a plumber. Get on your plumber’s service list now, before they fill up with other residents who have frozen pipes too.
Why Working with a Trusted Local Plumber Matters in a Winter Freeze
Sometimes following the above efforts may be enough to help protect your pipes from freezing and your home from sustaining damage. However, in the case of Kingwood’s February 2021 freeze, the failing Texas power grid and rolling outages compounded the problem. Without heat to help warm pipes not designed to endure days of below freezing temperatures, hundreds of residents experienced frozen and busted pipes that frequently came with water damage.
As burst pipes and water damage became obvious, people began calling their plumber for assistance. The demand for plumbers became so high that many of these professionals were working around the clock to help clients.
Unfortunately, many of those who did not already have an established relationship with a trusted and reputable plumber were forced to seek whatever help they could, which due to high demand resulted in some cases of extreme price gouging.
Do not wait until a plumbing emergency arrives to find a professional you can trust. Establish yourself as a client now so that a plumber can help you be proactive in protecting your home, and reactive when you need to be.
Take plumbing tales from a winter freeze in Kingwood, Texas to heart and get ready for winter before it arrives. Being prepared ahead of time just might save you from frozen pipes and water damage when freezing temperatures set in.