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The article is about how to help prevent frozen water pipes for homes in north Texas.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.    Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Allen, TX; and Frisco, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charge.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

 

Ways To Help Prevent Frozen Water Pipes In North Texas

water pipe burst due to freezing

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown:  A Frozen Water Pipe That Has Burst. 

 

Please Note:  This article is written for homes in north Texas and further south.

While some suggestions may apply to the entire United States — other suggestions won’t apply.  

 

Frozen Water Pipes That Burst Cause Tremendous Property Damage

water damaged home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown:  Water Damaged Home With Mold Growth

 

  • NationWide Home Insurance states the average damage claim for frozen water pipes that burst is $10,000. *  
  • Over the past decade, insurance companies have paid out $4 billion in claims for frozen & burst pipes — according to the Institutes for Business and Home Safety. **

* Source: https://www.nationwide.com/frozen-pipes-prevention-tips.jsp

** Source: https://www.wxyz.com/news/5-ways-to-protect-your-pipes-from-freezing-as-bitter-cold-temperatures-hit-metro-detroit

 

At What Temperature Can Frozen Water Pipes Happen?

The most likely places to experience frozen water pipes are:

  • Uninsulated pipes
  • Pipes located within outer walls
  • Pipes located in the attic, basement, unheated garage or crawl space
  • Pipes made of copper or galvanized steel

Frozen water pipes are a common concern during winter in north Texas.  When thinking of frozen water pipes, we often think of faucets on the outside of the house.  There are protective measures you can take to help protect indoor water pipes during the coldest time of winter.  As a general rule, the temperature for freezing pipes is 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit — but that doesn’t mean water pipes will freeze and burst at 32 degrees.   Indoor pipes have some protection from outdoor temperatures — even in unheated areas such as; crawl-space, attic or garage.  Usually before indoor water pipes may freeze — outdoor temps must drop to 20 degrees or lower, and for 4 hours or longer.

In southern climates, temps below 20 degrees can be an issue because many homes were not built to accommodate such cold temperatures.   Also, water pipes are often within exterior walls.  They are generally just beneath the drywall — with wall insulation between the water pipe and the outer edge of the exterior wall — if the walls are insulated.

Texas Homes’ Insulation Levels That Were Common

Or Became Required By Building-Code Over The Years

           Attic Insulation                           Wall Insulation

  • 1950’s: none                                     none
  • 1965-1970: R-13 (3.5″ BATT)      Wall Insulation: R-6 (2″ BATT)
  • 1970’s: R-19 (6″ BATT)                 Wall R-6  (2″ BATT)     *3
  • 1980’s: R-30 (9″ Blown)               Wall R-13 (3.5″ BATT) *4
  • 2014:    R-38 (15″ Blown)              Wall R-15                        *5
  • *3 Source: https://snuggpro.com/blog/item/many-homes-built-prior-to-1980-were-built-without-insulation-in-the-walls
  • *4 Source: https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/insulation-code-change_o
  • *5 As required by the 2012 Edition of the International Building Code (IBC)

PEX Flexible Water Lines May Be Located In The Attic 

PEX water pipe

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: PEX Water Lines Being Installed In A Home’s Attic

 

PEX water pipes are flexible and less likely to burst if they should freeze — but they can freeze and burst if it’s cold enough.  When located in the attic, burst PEX water lines can flood the entire home.    The best protection for PEX water pipes in the attic is lots of insulation on top of them.

Texas Building Code requires R-38 attic insulation in new construction homes or renovations.   With R-38 attic insulation required in Texas, that should protect PEX pipes from freezing in DFW.

 

In existing homes, replacement PEX water lines are often installed in the attic

(Versus busting through the slab foundation OR tunneling under the slab to gain access.)

Once a PEX water lines attic installation is completed — the attic must be re-insulated to at least R-38.

measuring insulation level in attic

Image Source: ShutterStock

Attic insulation is moved aside while installing PEX water lines — because proper PEX installation requires the water lines to be as close to the drywall ceilings below as possible. All insulation must be be on top of the water lines.  

TIP: You might also want to ask the insulation-contractor the increased cost if the attic is insulated to R-45.  This is the mid-point between the The U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) recommendations for attic insulation in Climate Zone-3 (where DFW is located).   More insulation also provides increased comfort and lower energy bills — but there is a point when adding even more insulation will not provide additional. worthwhile benefit.

ADD INSULATION TO ATTIC
ZoneRecommended Attic R-Value
1R30 to R49
2R30 to R60
3R30 to R60
4R38 to R60
5R49 to R60

 

 

 

 

 

DFW is in Zone 3.

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/weatherize/insulation

 

Outdoor Faucets On Walls

outdoor water faucet in wall

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Exterior (garden hose) Faucet On Exterior Wall

 

First, check to see if there are any gaps around the outdoor faucet’s pipe where it comes through the wall.  These gaps are often covered by a chrome trim ring.  If there is a gap, it must be filled with caulk to prevent air flowing into the home through the hole / gap.   This air-flow is very cold as it’s outdoor air.  It becomes more of an issue because the air is moving (into the home) alongside the pipe.

 

Click Here To See An Example Of An Air-Gap Behind An Outdoor Faucet’s Chrome Trim Ring: Air Gap Around Outdoor Faucet Water Pipe

 

There is a simple and inexpensive way to help protect outdoor faucets from freezing.  There are reusable, styrofoam covers with a loop-cord inside them that hooks over the faucet’s handle.  Then the cover is pressed against the wall and the cord is pulled tight to secure the cover.  When wanting access to the faucet, the tension on the cord in released and the cover is removed.

Exposure to sunlight causes styrofoam to degradate and fail over time.    The cover shown below has a plastic shield over the foam.   Less expensive foam covers don’t have a plastic shield, and will fail sooner due to sun exposure.  Either version protects the faucet equally.

 

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase from Amazon.com

Shown: Outdoor Faucet Cover

 

outdoor faucet foam cover installed

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Faucet Cover Installed

 

In-Ground Outdoor Faucets

In DFW, where the city’s main water line enters your home (coming from the street or alley) — it generally connects to an outdoor faucet that comes vertically up from the ground.  From there the water line enters your homeProtecting these faucets from freezing is also possible.  One solution is to line a plastic bag with batt insulation.  Pull the bag downward over the faucet and tie it as close to the ground as possible.

outdoor faucet coming up from the ground

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown:  Outdoor Faucet Installed In The Lawn

 

If you have a in-lawn faucet in a highly visible location — there is a decorative solution for covering and protecting it from freezing.   Purchase a plastic landscaping rock (they are hallow) — and line it with batt insulation (put the inside a plastic bag).

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase from Amazon.com

Shown: Hollow, Plastic Landscaping Rock — To Protect An In-Lawn Outdoor Faucet

Dimensions For The Rock Shown Above: 14”High x 14”Long  x 10.75” Wide.  This covers most in-lawn outdoor faucets.

 

If your outdoor faucet is taller than 14 inches — there are taller plastic landscaping rocks available.

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase from Amazon.com

Dimensions For The Rock Shown Just Above: 23” High x 15”Long  x 14” Wide.  This covers most taller, in-lawn, outdoor faucets.

 

You can also add foam insulation around the pipe between the ground and the faucet.  There are specialty products made for water pipes.  The insulation has a cut running the entire length, all you must do is open the insulation at the gap and push it around the pipe.

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase from Amazon.com

Shown: Pre-Cut Foam Insulation For Water Pipe

 

Help Protect Water Pipes That Are Located Within Exterior Walls

water pipes inside exterior walls

Photo Source: ShutterStock

Shown :This Home’s Water Pipes Are Installed Inside Exterior Walls

 

Many homes in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area have water pipes installed inside the exterior walls.   The pipes are just below the drywall — and have insulation between them and the outside edge of exterior walls.  Older DFW homes were built without wall insulation — or very little.

How to Plan Ahead & Be Prepared In The Event That A Water-Pipe Bursts

  • Locate the home’s main water shut-off valve.   If a pipe bursts, you don’t want to be searching for the shut-off valve while the broken pipe floods your home.
  • Place a tag on the main shut-off valve.
  • Make sure everyone living in the house knows where the valve is — how to operate it in case of an emergency.
  • Lower in this article we provide directions about how to find the water main shut off — in DFW homes.
  • If you live in a cold climate, the main water shut off will be inside the house.   If you have a basement,  the shut off will come up through the floor and the shut off will be near where the pipe comes up.

 

Click Here To See An Image Of A Water Main Shut Off In A Northern U.S. Home: Water Main Shut Off In A Northern Home

 

  • Keep a roll of waterproof sealing-tape to wrap a burst water pipe for temporary repair.
  • Here’s one brand of waterproof sealing-tape.

Click On Image To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase from Amazon.com

Shown: Flex Tape.  Flex Tape is rubberized.

Click On The YouTube Video Below To See Results Of A Test For Flex Tape 

On A Side Note:  When applied to a wet surface — Flex Tape leaked a little.   When applied to the same surface while dry, the product provided a water-tight seal.

You Could Likely Work Around This Shortcoming:

  • Put a piece of Flex Tape on wet surface where the leak is.  This will stop most of the water flow.
  • To help seal the leak, squeeze the tape.
  • Dry the surface and apply additional tape while squeezing the first tape in place.

Ways To Help Protect Water Pipes Inside Exterior Walls From Freezing During Extreme Cold

(below 28 degrees for 4 or more hours):

 

TIP:  Going On A Vacation During Winter?

Shut The House’s Water Off  & Open All Faucets.

If the furnace should stop working — the pipes may freeze.

But with the water shut off — you won’t have a flooded home.

 

Leave a can of soda into the freezer too long and the can will burst because the soda froze.   When water freezes in a pipe, it also expands.  If the water expands enough — the pipe breaks.  Unless you can see the pipe, you won’ t it has burst until it thaws out and water begins flowing again.     Then within a short period of time, many thousands of dollars in damage can occur.

If you plan to be away from home for several days — shut the water off at the whole-house shut-off valve.   A furnace can stop working at any time, and it most likely to during very cold temperatures (because it’s running more) and pipes can freeze that wouldn’t have if the furnace had been working.

 

Additional Ways To Help Prevent Water Pipes From Freezing In DFW:

  • If temps will drop below 28 degrees — leave faucets dripping.
  • TIP: Open the faucet farthest from where water enters the home.   This allows water to flow through the home’s entire water line.
  • A constant flow of water through pipes makes freezing less likely.
  • It also prevents pressure from building up inside pipes.
  • Water expands as it turns to ice.  This expansion is what bursts pipes.  A frozen pipe increases pressure throughout the whole plumbing system.
  • If the kitchen sink is on an outside wall — leave the doors open.
  • If a bathroom sink is on an outside wall — leave the doors open.
  • Pull shower curtains back — it allows more heat inside the bathtub or shower.
  • If you have ceiling fans — reverse their rotation bring air downward.   This makes better use of the warmest air (near the ceiling) — and keeps both the water pipes and you warmer.
  • Drafts help freeze pipes.  Cracks & holes in outside walls near water pipes must be be sealed with caulking to help prevent frozen pipes on cold, windy days.   Sealing air leaks also reduces your heating & cooling bills.
  • Wind chills can accelerate freezing of water pipes.  Some pipes may freeze that would not have if there was no wind.
  • Keep garage doors closed if the water heater or any water supply lines are in garage walls.   Also if living spaces are located above the garage.
  • If your home is pier & beam — insulate water & sewer pipes in the crawl space.
  • If your home is pier & beam — close crawl-space vents during winter.

 

NOTE: There are different opinions if a crawl-space should ever be vented  Click below to see a YouTube Video describing a scientific study that determined it’s best to keep the crawl-space vents closed year round because summer air is very humid.  Also, DFW summer humidity levels are higher than many areas in the U.S. — due to air blowing over the Gulf Of Mexico and into Texas.

Note: It’s important to note that the homes in the test had a plastic-sheeting covering the ground under the home.   This acts as a vapor-barrier, so only a little humidity will enter the crawl space.

 

NOTE: Don’t seal a crawlspace if if contains a furnace or water heater.  They must be able to get air for the gas combustion.

But you could seal over the vents on the north and west side of the house — since those side are exposed to the most wind.

 

 

Seal Holes Around Water Pipes Coming Through Walls

photo of water and sewer pipes under kitchen sink

Image Source: CanStock Photo

Shown: Gap Around Black Sewer Pipe Is Leaking Air Into The House

There are often holes in the drywall that are larger than the water or sewer pipe coming through them.  This allows increased flow of frigid air through the outside wall.  The more air passing through wall — the more air is passing along the water pipes.

 

TIP: Seal all gaps in walls (both exterior and interior) to stop air leakage into the home.  There should not be gaps — much less huge holes as shown just below.

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Shown: Click On Arrow In Center Of Image To View The Vedio About How To Repair Holes In Drywall Where Plumbing Comes Into House

 

Your Home’s Private Water Shut-Off Valve (it’s separate from the water meter box)

 

TIP: There is a shut off valve in the city’s water meter box — but that box is locked and requires a special tool to unlock it.

Different tools are required depending on the brand of the water meter box. 

 

Know where your home’s private water shut-off valve is —  and how to operate it.  When you leave the home unattended for more than a day (such as during a vacation) — turn off your water at the shut-off valve and leave all indoor faucets opened.  Then, if a pipe should freeze and burst — it won’t flood your home because the water is shut off.

DFW homes built with slab foundation typically don’t have a water shut off inside the house. 

  • In most slab foundation homes — your home’s personal water shut off valve is typically quite close the home’s foundation.   It’s typically within view of the City’s Water Meter Box — as a the water main pipe comes directly toward the house from the water meter box.
  • Often times, there will be a faucet coming up out of the ground (described earlier) near the box where the home’s personal shut off valve is located.
  • Your personal shut off will likely be inside a plastic with a lid — and the lid is level with the ground’s surface.  It will likely have a green or black plastic cover.   The box might be made of concrete or other materials.

 

For A Plastic Box — The Cover Will Look Similar To This.  In some instances, the box may be made of concrete or other products.

The box is buried into the ground — and only the lid will be visible.

It may be covered with landscaping rock or mulch, or under bushes.

 

Image Source: Amazon.com

 

Other Locations For Personal Shutoff Valves:

Your personal shutoff valve completely turns off water to the house and may be found in one of the following locations:

  • In crawl space homes — the personal shut off will likely be where the main water line enters the home.
  • The shut off may be in the garage.  It will be near the water heater or laundry hookup.

 

Click Below Learn Many Ways To Lower Heating Costs (including closing holes in exterior walls):

20 Uncommon Ways To Lower Heating Costs Part-1 of 3

 

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The article was about how to help prevent frozen water pipes in north Texas.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.    Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, TX; Allen, TX; and Frisco, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charge.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.