Winter Protection against Pipe Freeze-Ups

In the past, we have seen severe freeze-damage in all areas of the country. Besides the actual cost to repair the piping and the water-damaged property, several organizations have had to actually close parts of their facilities for several days.

The following things should be done immediately to prevent the cold weather and frozen pipes from causing losses to your facilities.

  1. Make certain all windows and other openings are closed; don’t forget stairwells and attic spaces.
  2. A minimum temperature of 40 degrees F should be maintained in all indoor areas of the building. If the temperature drops below this level one or more of the following measures should be taken:
    • Leave the water dripping at a faucet in that area.
    • Provide adequate heating in areas susceptible to freezing; above suspended ceilings, in stairwells, etc.
  3. Protect all piping that is exposed to outside temperatures (e.g., in crawl spaces under your building or in unheated attics)
    • Foam insulation is available in all common pipe sizes, or heat-tape is available to wrap piping in extreme weather locations.
  4. Protect all exterior faucets/hose bibs
    • Replace standard faucets with frost-free ones, place a foam cover (obtainable at any home improvement or plumbing store) over the faucets or wrap the faucets with insulation and place a plastic bag over them.
  5. Monitor building temperature via supervisory devices, which should be transmitted to a 24-hour monitoring location. This is especially important in unheated locations of the building. If this is not possible, staff should be required to walk-through the building if the facility is closed for more than 12 hours (e.g. long weekends). Thermometers should be placed throughout the facility for staff to check. If the temperature is below 40 degrees F appropriate corrective measures should be taken.
  6. If the pipes do freeze, do not thaw with a blowtorch or other open flame device; use a hair dryer, heat lamp or a light bulb. Before you begin to thaw the pipes, make certain that you know where the water shut-off valve is located for the facility.

If automatic sprinkler piping passes through any unheated or under-heated areas the automatic sprinkler servicing company should be contacted immediately to inspect the system. If necessary they may isolate the portions at risk with dry-pipe or anti-freeze-filled systems or, if only the heads are exposed to freezing, may install frost-free heads.

Don’t expose your facility to damage or your patrons to inconvenience because of cold weather. Proper preparation will allow you to operate during most winter conditions.