Winter’s Coming…Are Your Pipes Protected?
Pipe insulation is probably something you never think about as a homeowner. The fact is, though, that most home builders don’t think about it much either. Skimping on pipe insulation is one of the first places that shady contractors look to cut corners in order to present customers with a more attractive bottom line. However, proper pipe insulation is one of the most important facets of your home’s infrastructure; not only does insulation improve the performance and life of your plumbing, it also protects them against damage from extreme temperatures or weather.
If you feel that your home’s plumbing system is not properly insulated, you should consult a plumbing professional immediately. Here are some important things you should know about pipe insulation:
The most serious threat to poorly insulated pipes is freezing temperatures. When the mercury drops, standing water left in pipes can freeze and expand, causing tiny cracks that may break open or burst altogether. It is essential that exposed pipes are properly insulated, especially in areas prone to below-zero temperatures. The cost of additional insulation is minute when you think about the cost of repairing damages caused by a burst pipe.
Obviously, outdoor pipes should be insulated, but even exposed pipes in your home can freeze if the temperature gets low enough. Be sure to look over pipes in the basement, attic, crawl spaces, under sinks, in utility rooms or garages, and in the laundry room and insulate them. If you should lose power during a winter storm or go on vacation during a cold snap, you could be forced to deal with the consequences of frozen or burst pipes.
Believe it or not, insulating pipes can significantly impact your overall energy consumption. As utility costs rise and amid growing concerns about the environment, homeowners all over the country are paying more attention to how they use energy. Proper insulation around pipes limits heat transfer and provides a vapor barrier against moisture, which improves the thermal efficiency of your home and saves you money.
Poorly insulated pipes allow water to condense, which leaves pipes susceptible to standing water that can freeze in cold weather. This can cost you thousands of dollars in water damage to walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture. Condensation can also speed the deterioration of pipes, causing erosion, leaks, cracks, and gaps. By adding a bit of extra insulation, you can eliminate the potential for water damage from burst pipes and erosion.
The biggest problem with pipe insulation is keeping it dry. Traditional pipe insulation includes materials like fiberglass and minerals; these have been joined by flexible and rigid closed-cell glass products. Glass insulation provides a better barrier against moisture, helping pipes stay dry. Some contractors also use a wicking material that wraps around pipes to help absorb moisture and carry it away from the insulation jacket, where it evaporates. For underground pipes, most new insulation is made from polyurethane foam, which offers excellent protection and limits moisture accumulation.