Recommended Hard Freeze Protection

Hard Freeze Preparation for Horseshoe Bay Residents  

We don't get extremely cold weather often here in Central Texas, but when we do it's important to make sure your pipes, plants and pets are protected during the freeze event.

Water Pipes

Anyone who has experienced water damage knows just how huge of a problem it can be.  Water damage from frozen pipes can sometimes be an even bigger problem, mainly because here in the south we simply don't consider the threat of freezing weather when it comes to building homes.

Also, houses are commonly built on slab foundations in the south which means water pipes are usually run through the attic—not the best place in terms of vulnerability when it comes to water damage from frozen pipes.

If you live in a house with pipes located in the attic, outside walls or crawl spaces—those areas are all subject to freezing and bursting. In particular, strong overnight freezing is what usually does the most damage to these exposed, unheated and non-insulated pipes.

So when exactly should you be concerned about your pipes? At what temperature should you take preventive measures?

Problems begin to appear when temperatures fall into the teens, therefore 20 degrees F is what is known as the "temperature alert threshold."

If you have pipes that are exposed to cold air due to cracks in a wall, lacking insulation or located outside, incidents can occur during temps above that 20-degree F threshold. This is especially common when it comes to some manufactured homes or older homes that sit above the ground.

Two factors play into this temperature threshold.

  1. The temperature of an unheated portion of a house is almost always at least a few degrees above the outdoor temperature. For example, an insulated attic may be at 37 degrees or 38 degrees F when the outdoor temperature is 32 degrees F.
  2. Water “supercools” several degrees below freezing before any ice begins to form. In research tests at the University of Illinois, water pipes placed in an unheated, insulated attic consistently started forming ice when the outdoor temperature dipped just below 20 degrees F.

So how do you prevent disaster-related to frozen pipes? 

  • Pipes in attics and crawl spaces should be protected with insulation or heat. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves. Home centers and hardware stores have sleeves providing 1/8 to 5/8 inches of insulation; specialty dealers have products that provide up to 2 inches of insulation.
  • Heating cables and tapes are effective in freeze protection. Select a heating cable with the UL label and a built-in thermostat that turns the heat on when needed (without a thermostat, the cable has to be plugged in each time and might be forgotten). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • Doors on cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks should be left open during cold spells to allow the warmer air of the room to circulate around the pipes.
  • Exterior pipes should be drained or enclosed in 2-inch fiberglass insulation sleeves.
  • Pipes leading to the exterior should be shut off and drained at the start of the winter. If these exterior faucets do not have a shut-off valve inside the house, have one installed by a plumber.
  • Hoses should be removed and stored inside during the winter.
  • Let faucets drip slowly to keep water flowing through pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. Ice might still form in the pipes, but an open faucet allows water to escape before the pressure builds to where a pipe can burst. If the dripping stops, it may mean that ice is blocking the pipe; keep the faucet open, since the pipe still needs pressure relief.

Stay warm, and share this with friends, family and neighbors so that they are prepared when temperatures drop below freezing.

Plant Protection

If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here are a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:

  • Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard. If relocation is not possible, wrapping pots with towels may help prevent roots from freezing
  • To prevent heat loss from the sides of containers, push together large outdoor pots and wrap the bases with plastic, burlap or a blanket.
  • Rosemary topiaries or potted citrus plants or roses should be moved close to the wall of your house for warmth. Cover plants such as camellias with an old sheet or, for plants taller than 3 feet, black plastic.
  • Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
  • Don't worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against the cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up.
  • If you see damage from frost (black or purple flaccid leaves or stems), particularly on woody perennials, wait until the spring to prune so as to not shear off healthy tissue.

Pet Protection

Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals when temperatures drop. It’s best to keep all pets indoors, especially if the temperature drops below 32 degrees F. 

Dogs that live outdoors should have a doghouse that’s elevated a few inches and has cedar shavings, straw or a blanket to trap body heat. Pets that spend time outdoors need more food because cold weather saps energy.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.

Some animals can safely remain outside longer in the winter than others. Long-haired breeds like huskies will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like dachshunds. Your pet’s health also will affect how long the pet can stay out. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate body heat.

Consider dog sweaters during walks. When outside with your pets, watch them for signs of discomfort. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they’re saying they want to get back someplace warm.

Stay warm, and share this with friends, family and neighbors so that they are prepared when temperatures drop below freezing. Please consider helping those that are in need of assistance with freeze protection. 

City of Horseshoe Bay Utilities will be on call if you have a utility issue or need assistance turning off a broken pipe due to freezing. 

The Contact number is (830) 598-8741 and follow the prompts.