Every year in Calgary, there are an average of 400 water main breaks. With an average of 2.6 people per household, that’s a whole lot of Calgarians who are going to be left with messy clean ups, or even put out of their home due to broken pipes. With the water in Calgary’s water distribution system measuring between 1 and 3 Celsius, it takes very little exposure to colder temperatures for it to freeze. That’s why it is important to make sure your water service lines are not exposed to colder air during winter months. CREB® Now has compiled a few steps homeowners can take to lessen the risks of a broken water pipe in their home.
1. Ice-Cold Draft
Check around your home for areas where water supply lines are in unheated areas and take measures to prevent the flow of cold air in these areas. Common locations include: basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. In addition to helping prevent water line mishaps, eliminating drafts in your home can decrease your energy bills by up to 10 per cent. Look for places where pipes touch un-heated surfaces, such as foundation surfaces or framing, and repair broken windows. Check doors and insulate areas that allow cold exterior air to enter.
2. Running Hot and Cold
Contrary to popular belief, both hot and cold water pipes should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just like a cold water supply line if water is not running through the pipe and the water temperatures become cold. If you have plumbing in your garage, keep your garage door closed when it’s very cold. Pipes in unheated garages or basements should be insulated. In an emergency, such as losing heat in your home, faucets can be left open to a drip or very slow trickle.
3. Shut It Down
Determine where your water shut-off valve is in your house and learn how to use it. For most homes the shut-off valve is located near the water meter at the point where the water line comes into your home, usually in your basement. If you’re going to be away from your home for an extended period, keep your thermostat set at 15 degrees or higher and have someone check your house every second day. For those who have a seasonal home that could be vacant for the winter months, water should be drained to prevent freezing. Draining the water in a home is as simple as turning off the main valve (the one normally located before the water meter) and then running all the faucets in the home until the supply is exhausted.
4. Insulate Yourself
Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a pipe sleeve or installing UL-listed heat tape, heat cable or similar materials on exposed pipes. For pipes that run along exterior walls, fiberglass insulation can be inserted between the pipe and the wall, with special attention paid to the section where the water supply enters the home.
5. Winterize Outside Faucets
Traditional outdoor faucets can easily freeze where they pass through the building wall if the faucet is not shut off and drained. Newer, longer-stem frostproof outdoor faucets are available and are used in some new buildings. These newer faucets make sure the actual valve that turns off water flow is well inside the heated area. Never leave a garden hose attached to your outdoor faucet in winter as water in the hose may add to the risk the faucet will be freeze damaged.
In the event you do experience freezing with your water service, the City of Calgary recommends you turn off the main water valve and call 311. If you believe your pipes have frozen, turn off water at the main valve and call a plumber. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may also freeze.