The Cheapest Way to Prevent Frozen Pipes

It seems that a switch has been flicked, the start of September has marked the beginning of the end… as far a nice weather is concerned anyway.

This probably won’t be a problem for a few months yet, but it’s definitely something to think about, especially if you’ve had issues with frozen pipes before, or leave a property unoccupied for extended periods of time.

Frozen pipes that cost a fortune to repair are the bane of every homeowner living in seasonally cold climates. A frozen pipe can burst and cause litre upon litre of water to spill out and go to waste. At best, a mildly frozen pipe can obstruct the flow of water through your house and cause inconvenience. Frozen pipes are a rational concern for all home owners, with the devastating stories of damage wreaked by this dilemma triggering a fever pitch of anxiety, especially for those living in houses where the plumbing goes through unheated spaces.

While there are a number of high end ways to mitigate the risks, permanent fixes such as outfitting an exterior wall with new insulation or rerouting pipes, often require you as a homeowner to hire contactors and splurge large sums of money. On the other hand, if you are seeking out quick fix, cheap freeze protection, heat tape fit the bill perfectly. Despite its name, this ingenious little contraption isn’t an adhesive at all. It’s rather like an electrical cable that is snaked through or wrapped around a pipe, rendering a controlled amount of heat to avert freezing.

If you have ever had to contend with freezing pipes in the past, perhaps outdoors, underground, in the crawl space or loft, it is all the more prudent to go the extra mile to ward off another occurrence. When you wrap a vulnerable pipe with a heat tape, you ensure the pipe doesn’t freeze, regardless of the weather. Getting the timing right is the trickiest part, since heat tapes won’t work unless you have them installed before the temperature drops down – so starting sooner rather than later is always going to be the wisest strategy.

In addition to early preparation, the type of tape you use also makes a big difference. Most tapes on the market  are self-regulating, and some are even equipped with a built-in thermostat, so that you can adjust the level of heat they produce according to the conditions. As the outdoor temperature plummets, the self-regulating cables generate even more heat. Once the temperatures rise up again, the cables are turned off automatically, ensuring both energy efficiency and safety.

Previously, heat tapes were hardwired into the home’s electrical system, but now, the trend is more towards plug and play. One end of the tape has to be plugged into an outlet, and the rest positioned according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember that not all outlets are equal in terms of safety. It’s safer to only use an outlet fitted with an RCD (residual current device). These are designed to alleviate the electrical current in case of a power loss or spike.

The most common way to wrap the tape around the pipe is to leave a couple of inches space between subsequent wraps. Installing a heat tape is a hassle free DIY project for homeowners, made all the more simple if the pipe is in proximity to a RCD receptacle. While it is a straight forward task, it is highly important to thoroughly read and comprehend all the specifications written by the manufacturer.

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