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How to prevent pipes from freezing with power outage

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  • Dec 30th, 2013 10:55 am
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Deal Addict
Jan 14, 2009
1072 posts
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[quote="fieldhousehandyman" post_id="18071531" time="1388059444" user_id="373516"]The advice I suggested will keep pipes from bursting. There is absolutely no harm in cutting off water supply and leaving water in the lines after opening a few taps to reduce pressure and provide room for expansion. We aren't closing up the cottage for winter here![/QUOTe]

Shutting off the water is worst possible thing to do. Opening the taps provides expansion room and adds energy to water keeping it above freezing. But of course you know this.
Deal Fanatic
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Mar 13, 2004
8124 posts
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Toronto, Ontario
GTT1 wrote:
Dec 25th, 2013 3:43 pm
You have gas so if a gas hot water tank leave it on and it will create some heat in the basement
Most hot water tanks are vented in which case it will need electricity to work. So even if its gas its not working.

Time to get that fireplace working if you still dont have power, the heat from it will at least help bring up the temp in the home a bit, less in the other floors but its better then nothing.
0_o
<_<
>_>
Deal Addict
Jan 19, 2011
2306 posts
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freeonboard wrote:
Dec 26th, 2013 3:54 pm
Shutting off the water is worst possible thing to do. Opening the taps provides expansion room and adds energy to water keeping it above freezing. But of course you know this.
Explain, then
"The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is."
Just a guy who dabbles in lots of stuff learning along the way. I do have opinions, and readily share them!
Deal Guru
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Nov 18, 2005
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Kingston
freeonboard wrote:
Dec 26th, 2013 3:54 pm
Shutting off the water is worst possible thing to do. Opening the taps provides expansion room and adds energy to water keeping it above freezing. But of course you know this.
It isn't the "worst possible thing to do". For starters shutting off the water minimizes the damage (only the water in the pipes can leak, there can't be a constant flow). And there isn't a lot of water in your house pipes, just a few buckets worth.

Regarding "opening the taps provides expansion room and adds energy". It only adds room for expansion in the direction of the pipes but you can't make ice only expand in one direction (and around curves to boot).

My 2 cents:
Keeping water moving could help as the water entering the house will be above freezing, but you'd have to keep it moving in every line (including your outside taps and toilets), but hot and cold. Having said that about the outside taps they water flow would likely quickly freeze so you'd run into a roadblock there.

If you want to drain your pipes, try the following
  • Hopefully you have a basement laundry tub that you can drain into so open those taps
  • Open all the other taps in the house (including outside taps)
  • As previously mentioned flush the toilets and use towels to get water out of the traps and the tank.
  • There will also be water in the trap under every sink. Hopefully they have drain plugs, otherwise you can usually disassemble the p trap to get the water out.
  • You'd also want to drain your hot water tank. Hook up a hose to the bottom of it and run it to a floor drain. Can probably actually drain the house through the hot water tank if its drain is the lowest drain point in the house.
Deal Addict
Aug 27, 2009
1133 posts
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Oakville
JWL wrote:
Dec 28th, 2013 8:54 am
It isn't the "worst possible thing to do". For starters shutting off the water minimizes the damage (only the water in the pipes can leak, there can't be a constant flow). And there isn't a lot of water in your house pipes, just a few buckets worth.

Regarding "opening the taps provides expansion room and adds energy". It only adds room for expansion in the direction of the pipes but you can't make ice only expand in one direction (and around curves to boot).

My 2 cents:
Keeping water moving could help as the water entering the house will be above freezing, but you'd have to keep it moving in every line (including your outside taps and toilets), but hot and cold. Having said that about the outside taps they water flow would likely quickly freeze so you'd run into a roadblock there.

If you want to drain your pipes, try the following
  • Hopefully you have a basement laundry tub that you can drain into so open those taps
  • Open all the other taps in the house (including outside taps)
  • As previously mentioned flush the toilets and use towels to get water out of the traps and the tank.
  • There will also be water in the trap under every sink. Hopefully they have drain plugs, otherwise you can usually disassemble the p trap to get the water out.
  • You'd also want to drain your hot water tank. Hook up a hose to the bottom of it and run it to a floor drain. Can probably actually drain the house through the hot water tank if its drain is the lowest drain point in the house.
Some excellent points made here. I'll add:

Even after shutting off the water you don't want your pipes to freeze/burst so be sure to properly drain them. The last thing you want is having to open up walls and ceilings to find and repair a burst pipe. I neglected to properly drain the line in my garage one winter and the ice caused a 4" long rupture in the pipe.

Go into your basement, and if you can, look at your piping and make sure that you can drain water from all the low points. You don't necessarily need a laundry tub faucet, you can often just drain water from the water heater and most pipes will backflow into the tank assuming you open all the taps to allow air to bleed in.

I wouldn't drain water from the toilet and sink traps. Those traps are there to prevent sewer gases (potentially noxious and/or explosive) from entering the home. If you insist on draining the traps, shove some rags in there to block the gases.

I also wouldn't be in a rush to drain the water heater. The water in there is hot and the tank is insulated. Below the frost line (typically 1-2 ft in the GTA - yes I know code is 4 ft) ground temp is around 7C so you have competing factors determining the temperature of your basement. You can probably go several days, maybe even weeks before you need to worry about your tank freezing assuming you don't use the hot water, assuming you need power to run it.

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