Home Maintenance: Time to Insulate Water Pipes

Insulate water pipes

Today’s home maintenance tip is how to insulate water pipes that are exposed to the elements to protect them from bursting due to a hard freeze.

Winter is upon us once again. This is the time of year when we can experience temperatures below freezing at night. This also includes the occasional hard freeze. While there does not seem to be an official definition for this, a hard freeze is generally understood to occur when the exterior temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit and stay there for several hours.

Why you need to insulate water pipes

When this happens, water inside exterior water pipes freezes. When water freezes, it expands slightly and takes up more space. With a rigid water pipe and no room left to go, the expanding water damages the water pipe by causing a crack or rupture.

Ruptured water pipes can be expensive to repair, waste precious water, and take your plumbing system out of commission until fixed. Every time we experience a hard freeze here in Tucson, it is impossible to get a plumber for the next week or two because they are so busy fixing ruptured pipes.

To prevent this, it is important that you insulate water pipes around your property directly exposed to the outside air so that the water inside them cannot freeze. Insulating water pipes is an easy task that every home owner can perform themselves.

What you need to insulate water pipes

Items needed to insulate water pipes
Items needed to insulate water pipes
  1. Foam pipe insulation – You can buy it at any hardware store for a few dollars. It comes in tubes typically six feet long and in various diameters.
  2. Pipe wrap tape – You can buy it by the roll at any hardware store for a few dollars. Be sure to buy specifically pipe wrap tape and do not use duct tape. The pipe wrap tape costs a little more but it is much more durable. Duct tape will rapidly deteriorate from the sun. Pipe wrap tape lasts for many years.
  3. Scissors – To cut the foam and tape to the right size.

How to insulate water pipes

  1. Cut the foam tubes into sections of the proper length as needed.
  2. Place them around all exposed water pipes.
  3. Wrap the foam with pipe wrap tape.
Insulated water pipe
Insulated water pipe

Pretty simple, right?

There is one more thing you should do though: You probably have hose bibs at various locations around the house. They should be insulated as well. You can either wrap them with rags, or buy some sort of foam cover. There are different style available.

Insulated hose bib
Insulated hose bib

We recommend you add an annual reminder to your calendar, ideally a few weeks before hard freeze season to verify the insulation is still intact and to put the foam covers on the hose bibs.