All pipes in our homes are made of thick materials such as metal or hard plastic. When water, oil, or any other liquid found in these pipes reaches its freezing point, its structure abruptly changes. Water turns into solid crystal ice, while oil turns into gel, and wax separates from it before starting to turn to ice. No matter how the liquid freezes, as the same amount of frozen matter requires more space than the liquid, it will definitely clog the pipe and drastically increase its internal pressure, which almost certainly leads to burst and leakage. Sometimes leaks are hard to spot, especially if pipes are built into walls or underground. A burst pipe should not be “patched”, it is strongly recommended to replace the entire pipe immediately.

burst-pipeIt is clearly better to prevent that costly pipe freezing than to let it happen. In areas such as Northeast freezing temperatures are common during wintertime so pipe insulation is an absolute must.

Pipes most at risk for freezing include:
• Pipes located in exterior walls
• Any plumbing on the exterior of the home
• Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home

It’s best to insulate your pipes during summer, since you will need to drain the liquid from all pipes you want to insulate. Insulation coatings are the easiest and cost-effective way to protect your pipes from freezing. You won’t have to worry about possible freezing and there’s no need to check pipes frequently.

Once it gets cold, keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time. This will insure that your pipes won’t freeze.

Always disconnect your water hose from your outdoor spigot in the winter, or before the temperature in your area drops below freezing. The water inside the hose can freeze, and the freezing continues back into the spigot until it reaches your pipes. Any pipe that freezes could burst.

You can also opt for additives which you can put in your heating oil, and which prevent its freezing (or better said gelling). Another option is ordering oil which already has anti-gel additives in it, this may be somewhat pricier but definitely worth it. You cannot put common antifreeze in your oil tank, it is harmful to the environment. Use only certified additives and fuel. Oil with additives is strongly recommended if your tank is outdoors.

Heating oil that’s already mixed with additives is a better option than putting additives on your own. In such heating oil, you can be sure that engineers made a good blend of fuel and additives which won’t freeze, won’t gel and will be safe for use. It may come at a greater price, but with COD option you can order it only during coldest months when freezing is expected.

If you’re more inclined towards “do-it-yourself” solutions, you can add kerosene to your heating oil. Kerosene lowers the freezing point of your oil. Adding kerosene is safe, it won’t do any harm to your heating system even in the long run. However, you first need to talk with a HVAC professional to determine the most appropriate kerosene proportions.

Another option is installing an electric heat sheet on your tank bottom. This sheet warms up the oil from the tank bottom. Warmed-up oil will rise and the oil from top will take its place. This will certainly prevent gelling in all conditions, but will have a toll on your electricity bill. Water, oil and many other liquids we use in our home are subject to freezing. Even some warm area can be at risk as it takes little time under low temperatures to freeze, so it’s best to prevent it rather than deal with burst and leaky pipes later.