avoid frozen pipes

What Winter Can Show: Wrap Up Warm to Avoid Frozen Pipes


It is a common weather pattern that after a big dump of snow, we get clear skies and a sudden drop in temperature.  As we learned last year, it could certainly be colder but this is a good time to remind yourself to check up on the status of your interior piping.  You don’t want frozen pipes.  And you also don’t want inefficient ones.  Learn how to keep your domestic water in tip top shape.

This is Part III of our mini series on winter related data collection for your house.  To learn about how snow can show you how well insulated your roof is, check out: How Warm is Your Roof? and Do you have Leaky Windows?

Cold Water or REALLY Cold Water

A winter cold snap like today’s is a great time to check the insulation of your water pipes.  The hot water that comes out of your faucet is heated in a boiler that probably lives in your basement.  Cold days like today are a particularly good time to take note of time lags between turning on the “hot” tap and getting out water that is anywhere near warm.  A big time delay is not only annoying when you wash your face in the morning but a sign that you’re paying good money to heat up water and then letting it chill right down again while it waits to be used.

How long does it take hot water to reach your sink?  You can run a simple test with a stop watch to find out … and contemplate the amount of water you regularly waste waiting for the warm.

So … what can you do to avoid Frozen Pipes?

According to Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum, authors of Green $ence for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, insulating your pipes is a home improvement project most people can do for themselves in an afternoon and will save you around 6% of your hot water bill.  You can call a specialist in or tackle this one yourself: wrapping and taping fiberglass insulation around your basement pipes or using the much simpler foam pip sleeves you can find at your local home improvement store will noticeably improve your domestic hot water access and allow you to turn the thermostat down on your water heater.

Treehugger’s energy efficency blogger “Ask Pablo” advises that you’ll get a financial return on your investment only if you do this task yourself.  But don’t fear … it is an easy home improvement to tackle.

frozen pipes insulation

An alternate solution (or perhaps an additional one) is to hire a plumber to run a direct line from your hot water heater and main (probably) kitchen sink as this Minnesota energy aficionado did.

Perhaps even more importantly, insulating your cold water pipes as well as your hot ones can have a huge preventative payoff by making sure that your pipes don’t explode if the temperature drops even further.  Frozen pipes are one winter problem we all want to avoid!