Winter presents many potential hazards for your home. As summer wraps up, fall is the perfect time to ensure that your home is ready for the challenges that lie ahead. If you have pipes running through unconditioned spaces in your home, then installing insulation is a cheap and easy option to avoid costly failures once the weather turns cold.
Why Should You Insulate Your Pipes?
Pipe insulation serves two purposes:
- Save energy by preventing heat loss
- Protect water pipes from freezing
If your hot water pipes run through unconditioned spaces, then there's some potential for heat loss as the water travels from your heater to your fixtures. When these losses are significant enough, they may prompt you to keep your water heater's setpoint higher than necessary. Raising the temperature on your water heater not only uses more energy but can wear out the internal components more quickly.
On the other hand, both cold and hot water pipes are vulnerable to freezing on especially cold nights. While hot water pipes in use will rarely stay cold for long enough to freeze, ice can still develop over periods of inactivity. You can usually thaw frozen pipes before they burst, but prevention is the best approach. Insulation will help to prevent pipes from losing enough heat to freeze.
Which Pipes Require Insulation?
Residential supply pipes of all types can benefit from pipe insulation. Although PEX pipes are less vulnerable to bursting, the water inside can still freeze. Freezing temperatures can cause PEX to crack, as well, although this is not common. PEX pipes are also no less susceptible to heat loss than any other material, making hot water pipe insulation beneficial.
As a general rule, you should consider insulating any pipes in unconditioned spaces that are easily accessible. You may also want to consider insulating pipes in vanities or cabinets beneath sinks. While these pipes are technically in conditioned rooms, closed doors can prevent heat from reaching them and leave them susceptible to freezing.
Do You Need a Professional?
Insulating pipes is not a complicated or costly job, but there are reasons that it's worth hiring a professional plumber to perform the work. Effective insulation should tightly adhere to all pipes, and you should always seal all seams and joints. Self-adhering insulation can make this work more manageable, but an experienced plumber can ensure a perfect fit.
Whether you choose to insulate your pipes yourself or hire someone to do it for you, this relatively cheap home plumbing upgrade can save you money and frustration once winter rolls around.