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Expert Tips on Preparing Your Home for Freezing Temperatures

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At Barron, we are committed to serving our customers and future customers with the information they need in order to make informed decisions to maintain and improve their home comfort. 

Our current landscape includes dealing with the ongoing pandemic and subsequent supply chain shortages, in addition to weather events like flooding and temperature extremes. These factors have contributed to our limited capacity, and while we would love to serve each and every person in our community, we’ve made the difficult decision to not take on new customers at this time. This allows us to prioritize our customers with service agreements whom we have already committed to serving.

That said, we want to still help all customers, current, and potential, in whatever ways we can. We want to provide you with useful and seasonably appropriate tips all year, including tips on preparing your home for freezing temperatures. Read on as we address some frequently asked questions regarding this. 

“Can I Prevent Frozen Pipes?”

Yes! While it may sound a bit counterintuitive, one way to do this is to keep faucets dripping to allow water to keep flowing through the pipes. This makes your pipes less likely to freeze, as does plugging vents in your crawlspace to prevent cold air and wind from blowing in. 

Open the cabinet doors under your sinks to allow warm air from your forced-air heater to reach the pipes. Lastly, consider getting some insulating sleeves, particularly for exposed pipes under sinks, in your basement, or your crawlspace. 

“What If My Pipes Freeze Anyway?”

First and foremost, (even if an online tutorial tells you to do so!) never use an open flame to try to defrost pipes! There is a risk for injury, first off, and this quick thawing can actually make it more likely for the pipe to burst. Instead, open your faucets to try to heat the area where your pipes are located. Space heaters, heating pads, and hair dryers can be used to apply heat directly to the pipes, as long as this is done safely–do not allow cords to be exposed to areas where water may drip. 

“What Do I Do If a Pipe Bursts?”

The first thing you’ll want to do in this scenario is to shut off your main water line. Once you do this, open all your faucets to drain any excess water out of the system, and leave them open until you can have a professional come in and repair your plumbing to restore water service. 

“Do My Crawlspace Conditions Play a Role in Frozen Pipes?”

Yes! You want to make sure that you have proper insulation that it isn’t damaged, particularly if your plumbing is installed between the floor joists in your crawlspace. 

“How Can My Central Air Heat Pump Operate If Temperatures are Below 30°F?”

The short answer to this is, “it depends.” The type of heat pump you have is going to make a huge difference. It can be challenging for many heat pumps to keep up with the heating demands of your household in extreme temperatures, but ensuring you have proper insulation and air sealing is an important first step.

If you have a central air system with a heat pump, it’s recommended to have some sort of backup heat, whether it is natural gas, electric, or propane. These systems are able to sense the outside temperatures and adjust accordingly for efficient and effective heat. When temperatures drop cold enough, the backup heat source can take over or supplement your heat pump. 

“How Can My Mini-Split Heat Pump/Ductless System Operate If Temperatures are Below 30°F?”

This will, again, depend on the system. Different mini-split systems are rated for various outdoor temperatures, with some systems providing their full output at -5°F. You can use supplemental heat sources to complement your mini-split ductless system, such as a fireplace, electric heater, or radiant heater. 

“How Do I Care for the Outdoor Unit of My Heat Pump in Cold Temperatures?”

If there is snow or any other type of debris surrounding the outdoor unit, it should be cleared. Beyond this, however, your heat pump’s outdoor unit shouldn’t need further attention. 

“Do I Need to Change How I Use my Thermostat in Freezing Weather?”

If you’re currently keeping your thermostat at one set point, keep doing what you’re doing! This is actually best for efficiency. You may be setting it a few degrees lower at night when you’re sleeping or when you’re away from home to boost efficiency, which is also just fine. Let’s say you’re setting it to 60°F during those times, however, then raising it all the way up to 70°F when you’re home and need more heat. This huge increase forces your heater to work extra hard to get back up to that higher temperature. Today’s equipment is highly efficient, but turning them off and on like this can actually reduce both the efficiency and the lifespan of your heater. 

“What Do I Do If Ice Develops from the Condensate on My High-Efficiency Furnace?”

In an ideal situation, condensate from your high-efficiency furnace will drain to the exterior of your home. However, in cases of extreme cold, this drain can become frozen and blocked. If this happens, you can try using a hairdryer to melt the blockage. Keep in mind, condensate is acidic, and shouldn’t come in contact with the skin. 

You can reduce the chance of a frozen condensate line by insulating the exterior portion of the PVC piping with weather-resistant material, including pipe insulation.

Contact Barron Plumbing when you’re looking for a plumber in Skagit or Whatcom County. We are your full-service HVAC, electrical & plumbing contractor.

Our Mission: Improving Lives. Outside of Whatcom & Skagit County plumbing service and installation, offerings vary by location. Call or visit our city pages for more details. We look forward to serving you! Contact Barron Plumbing today.

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