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Prep Your Pipes for Cold Weather

Frozen water pipes are one of the most common property claims at churches. According to the risk management experts at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, the median cost to repair a frozen pipe claim is around $6,200. But the cost to repair the damaged pipes is just the tip of the iceberg: Buildings that are closed for repairs aren't open for ministry.

The best way to avoid a frozen pipe disaster is to protect your pipes from the cold. Brotherhood Mutual provides this checklist to avoid frozen pipes:

  • Insulate the pipes: When installed correctly, foam or rubber sleeves can protect pipes from freezing. Be thorough and insulate all segments of each pipe, including the elbows and tees. Seal the insulation seams with duct tape. If pipes run through narrow openings, squirt in insulating foam to provide a barrier from the cold. As a bonus, pipe insulation can also save energy as it helps maintain the temperature of hot water when it runs from the water heater to the faucet.

  • Insulate the walls: Good building insulation can help keep warm air in and cold air out during the winter months. Make sure the cracks around doors, windows, walls and ceilings are filled in with caulking as well. Insulate any crawl spaces that contain supply pipes, too.

  • Manage the temperature: Never allow inside temperatures to drop below 55 degrees. When extreme cold is forecast, prop open interior doors and cabinets to promote an even temperature throughout the building. In larger facilities, consider installing thermostats in multiple locations to help ensure all areas of the building are consistently warm.

  • Let faucets drip: During extreme cold weather, leave the water taps slightly open so that water continues to move through the pipes, making it less likely to freeze.

  • Remember the sprinklers: Work with your contractor to ensure that sprinkler pipes do not freeze. If you have a dry pipe system, condensation can cause water to collect inside the pipes, so it's a good idea to have the pipes drained each fall. Your sprinkler contractor can arrange this.

  • Install water alarms: These alarms will alert you when water is going where it's not supposed to. Some models have the ability to call, text or email when the alarm is tripped. Be sure to provide a backup power source to keep alarms working during power outages.

Taking these proactive steps now to protect against frozen pipes can save you time and money during the long winter months ahead.