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Foam pipe insulation (C) Daniel Friedman Where & How to Add Insulation to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • INSULATION to AVOID FROZEN PIPES - CONTENTS: how & where to add pipe insulation or other insulation for freeze protection of supply piping, drain piping, fuel piping, & heating system piping in buildings
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to protect buildings from freeze damage: prevent frozen pipes, frost heaves, cracking due to freezing, and prevent water and mold damage that follows frozen, burst pipes.
  • REFERENCES
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Pipe freeze-protection for buildings:

This article explains where, why, and how to add pipe insulation or in some cases building insulation and draft-stopping materials at cold problem spots to avoid freezing pipes.

The articles in this series will answer most questions about freeze protection for piping and other building plumbing and heating system components: how to winterize a building to avoid frozen pipes, and how to thaw frozen water supply & drain piping, wells, & water tanks, heating system piping and heating oil piping.



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Guide to Pipe Insulation to Prevent Freezing

Foam pipe insulation (C) Daniel FriedmanAdd Water Pipe insulation to prevent freezing: can be added to protect pipes routed through un-heated areas or near cold building corners. We particularly like to add slip-on foam pipe insulation where a plumbing line is run past a cold spot that is hard to warm up.

Some writers believe that if you insulate all of your water supply piping you won't have a frozen pipe problem. That may be a bit optimistic: we fear that a cold corner somewhere will be missed and left un insulated, or that a house left without heat for too long will get cold enough to freeze even an insulated pipe.

The advantage of insulating pipes is that it slows the rate at which a water pipe will freeze, possibly getting the pipe through the coldest part of the night and into a (hopefully) warmer daytime to warm-up again.

Remember, when insulating a water pipe, that you need to insulate all of it. Don't leave those awkward elbows or pipe tees un insulated.

Does Insulation Prevent Pipe Freezing in Prolong Cold Periods? Probably Not.

Watch out: Here is a speculative warning about relying on pipe insulation alone to avoid freezing, that is, we don't have hard science to back up this opinion:

Insulation on a water pipe will often protect building supply or drain pipes, un-used heating pipes & heating oillines from freezing during a brief spell of freezing temperatures.

But during a period of prolonged very cold nights and only moderately warmer days, we are not so sure that the insulation permits the pipes to accumulate "cold" rather than warmth. When this is the case, ultimately the pipes reach the freezing point.

Plastic piping to resist freezing: modern plastic piping is considerably more tolerant of freezing without bursting than copper or steel water pipes. In a home intended for regular winterization some builders use exclusively plastic pipes to resist freeze damage.

Watch out: even when freeze-tolerant piping is used, the piping connections, elbows, unions, couplings, and plumbing fixtures are still at risk of frost damage.

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