Watch Out For Frozen Pipes This Winter!

Signs of a Pipe Freezing

Though the year is new, winter is still here. One of the dangers of lower temperatures at this time of year is frozen and burst pipes. Frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of a pipe burst. Freezing is especially problematic for exposed pipes in areas like basements and crawl spaces. This article will share the signs of frozen pipes and what to do about them.

Low Water Pressure faucets

One of the first indicators of frozen pipes is little or no water coming out of sink faucets and taps. This can indicate one of two things; either the pipes are frozen, or the lines may have already burst. If the pipes have burst and there is evidence inside or outside the house, a homeowner should immediately turn off the water main and call a plumber. If the lines are frozen, immediate solutions can be taken to prevent the issue from worsening. They include the following:

  • Turn the sink faucets to a drip to keep water flowing and prevent complete water loss from freezing.
  • Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to allow warm air from the heater to reach the pipes.
  • Use a box fan or space heater to blow hot air near the pipes.

These steps will usually thaw the pipes or prevent them from completely freezing. If the problem persists, homeowners should seek the help of a professional. They may need to have lines moved further underground or install pipe insulation.

Frost or Ice Visible on Pipes

If homeowners look at exposed pipes within the house or outside and notice frost or ice on them, it is another sign the contents of the line are also frozen. Exposed or poorly insulated pipes are at the greatest risk of freezing and will sometimes have visible frost on them. This frost is a clear sign of freezing within the lines as well. Homeowners should consider installing pipe insulation on exposed lines to help prevent them from freezing. 

Two common types of pipe insulation are:

  • Fiberglass Pipe Insulation: This insulation is almost identical to the rolls of insulation typically used in the walls and ceilings of houses, only it is much smaller. The fiberglass batting is backed by a metallic tape that allows it to be wrapped around exposed pipes like a bandage. It is excellent for those under-the-sink pipes and other curvy parts of a plumbing system.
  • Foam Pipe Insulation: This insulation is built like a foam tube with variations in diameter depending on the size of the pipe to be insulated. They are split down one side so they can slide over the line and be secured with a special tape. They are perfect for long sections of exposed pipe in basements and such. 

Foul Odors From Frozen Sewer Pipes

smellNo one wants to wake up to discover that the bathroom or home smells like sewage. Unfortunately, this can be the case if sewer pipes freeze or burst. This can be harmful due to the inability to use the drain and the possibility of raw sewage leaking into the home. 

When sewer lines freeze, it can prevent waste from flowing through the pipes and being correctly disposed of, which can cause a backup of waste or the smell to reach the home. This problem is best handled by calling professionals to prevent the issue from worsening, like a burst. 

About Heil Plumbing

Heil Plumbing is a family-owned company serving Jessup, MD, and the surrounding areas for more than 40 years. They provide 24/7 emergency service, straightforward pricing, and professional values. Call them today for burst pipe repair, sewer line, and water line services in Jessup, MD

Why Every Homeowner Should Consider Insulating Their Water Heater This Winter

Getting the Water Heater Ready for Winter

With winter just getting started, it’s time for homeowners to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead. Most people know to winterize their plumbing and get the heater serviced, but another vital part of the home may need a little help to get through the winter – the water heater.

With colder water coming into the home and many water heaters located in parts of the house that tend to be exposed to colder temperatures (be it a garage or an unfinished basement), adding insulation to the water heater can help protect the appliance and help it perform better. Homeowners can keep reading to learn everything they need about water heater insulation!

The Importance of Insulating the Water Heaterinsulating

Between the cold water coming in and the cold air surrounding the unit, a home’s water heater always works hardest in the winter months. The burners or heating elements will have to run longer and hotter to heat the incoming water to the correct temperature, then run more frequently to maintain that temperature in the hot water tank.

So by insulating the water heater itself, homeowners can reduce the amount of standby heat loss that occurs, which cuts down on the water heater’s workload. This will allow the unit to run more efficiently since incoming water will heat up faster and stay hot longer. And, of course, greater energy efficiency means lower utility bills. It’s estimated that homeowners can save as much as 16% on their water heating costs by adding insulation.

Insulation is particularly beneficial if the homeowners have an electric water heater since these tend to be less efficient and electricity generally costs more than natural gas, depending on the region. Most standby heat loss in gas water heaters goes up the exhaust flue, but insulation can still help reduce heat loss around the tank.

Does the Water Heater Need Insulation?

Most water heaters have some degree of insulation built in, but that doesn’t always mean they don’t need more. For instance, older units typically aren’t as well-insulated as newer models. Fortunately, manufacturers use a rating system to denote the efficacy of the tank’s insulation. This is known as a water heater’s “R-value” and can typically be found in the owner’s manual or the unit itself.

If the water heater’s R-value is below R-24, it’s a good idea to add insulation. Many new units are rated at R-24 or higher and likely don’t need to be insulated. Some utility company regulations and local building codes prohibit using certain types of insulation. So if homeowners have doubts or can’t find the R-value anywhere, they can ask their local plumber if their water heater can (or should) be insulated.

Types of Water Heater Insulation 

insulationThere are several different types of water heater insulation on the market today. These are typically flexible materials that can be wrapped around the water heater, which is why they’re usually referred to as water heater blankets.

Fiberglass blankets are the most common and tend to be the most effective, thanks to their thickness and the insulative nature of fiberglass. Still, they can be scratchy and uncomfortable to install. Reflective foil is another popular material that reflects escaping heat back to the tank. Other water heater blanket materials include foam, cotton, and denim. Some blankets combine foam or fiberglass with reflective foil for even greater insulation.

Installing water heater insulation typically involves wrapping the blanket around the water heater, securing it with tape, and cutting holes around valves, drains, and burners. This must be done correctly to prevent fire hazards and avoid hindering the unit’s functionality or safety mechanisms. Some electric water heaters may also benefit from rigid insulation on the bottom of the unit, but this is best done when installing the unit. Homeowners can also add foam pipe insulation to the pipes going to and from the water heater to reduce heat loss further.

About Heil Plumbing

Heil Plumbing is a locally owned and family-owned company serving Jessup, MD, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, professional values, and a plumbing maintenance plan. Call them today for water heater services in Jessup, MD.