10 Ways to Protect Your Ministry from Frozen Pipes

Ice storms, blizzards, and unexpected polar vortex plunges—no part of the country is immune from winter’s bite. Whether it's November or February, unpredictable winter weather is always possible. That's why now's the time to prep your facility. Start with your plumbing pipes. Frozen pipes lead to burst pipes and a whole lot of unintended consequences. Before your ministry suffers costly damage, let’s warm things up. 

1. Run faucets

During extreme cold weather, let all faucets drip to prevent freezing of the water inside the pipe, and if freezing does occur, to relieve pressure buildup in the pipes between the ice blockage and the faucet.

2. Lowering the temp isn't always better

You may be tempted to lower the heat to save energy costs, but that can have unintended consequences. You may save money on heating bills but frozen or burst water pipes can disrupt your ministry and cost thousands to repair. Make sure your heat is running and never set your thermostat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Open cabinet doors to plumbing under sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around the exposed pipes.

3. Install a monitoring system

Install wireless monitors, such as Notion smart sensors, that provide notifications if the building’s temperature dips below a pre-determined number. The smart sensors can be placed near water sources to monitor for leaks.

4. Insulate pipes

Insulate pipes most vulnerable to freezing by using pipe insulation. This includes pipes in basements, crawl spaces, and attics.

5. Insulate and seal attic penetrations

Attic penetrations are holes between the living space and the attic that allow for air flow.  Exampes include partition walls, vents, plumbing stacks, and channels or groove spaces that accommodate electrical wires, cables, and pipes.

6. Seal cracks and penetrations

Seal all wall cracks and penetrations including fire protection lines, electrical conduit, and other utility service lines. Seal all windows, doors, and other openings on exterior walls with caulk or insulation to prevent cold air from penetrating the wall cavity.

7. Insulate recessed light fixtures

Insulate recessed light fixtures in the ceiling to reduce heat entering the attic. If the space above a suspended ceiling is conditioned, there is no need for added insulation or sealing.

8. Monitor sprinkler systems

Monitor sprinkler systems using a central station to provide early detection of a pipe failure. Make sure to heat sprinkler control rooms.

9. Install an automatic excess flow switch

Install an automatic excess flow switch on the main incoming water line to monitor and provide early detection of a broken pipe or valve.

10. Provide backup power

Provide a reliable backup power source, such as a standby generator, to ensure continuous power and heat to the building.

For more information about protecting your property from winter weather, visit the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety website at https://disastersafety.org/winter-weather/

Posted November 2019. Updated December 2022.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.