Becoming an expert at wielding a toilet plunger? With fall upon us and those brisk nights creeping into our forecast, it’s a good time to go over some ways you can prevent your pipes from freezing. If you want no more frozen pipes, keep reading.
Why do Frozen Pipes Burst?
When water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on the inside of your pipe. And it’s a strong force – over 2,000 lbs per square inch – that should not be underestimated. Whether it’s metal or plastic that expansion can easily cause it to break.
Which Pipes are Most Susceptible to Freezing?
- Exterior pipes exposed to cold weather – outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines – are likely candidates for freezing.
- Interior pipes in unheated areas of your home or business – water supply lines in basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or even kitchen cabinets.
- Interior pipes that run along exterior walls with little or no insulation.
Protect Your Pipes from Freezing
- Drain the water from supply lines for swimming pools and outdoor sprinklers, following any installation instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Detach and drain outdoor hoses and store them indoors.
- Close inside valves that supply outdoor hose bibs. Then open the outside hose bibs to allow the water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Insulate attics, basements and crawl spaces to maintain higher temperatures and eliminate the risk of interior pipes being exposed to a freeze.
- Inspect the areas around your home where water supply lines are located and may be exposed to freezing temperatures.
Areas to check include:
o The garage
o Underneath kitchen and bathroom cabinets
Note: Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Insulate exposed water pipes with a “pipe sleeve,” UL-listed heat tape, heat cable, or similar materials.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
- Keep your garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (Move harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of reach of children.)
- Allow the cold water drip from the faucet served by any exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent freezing.
- Keeping the temperature of your house above 55 degrees to prevent freezing of pipe lines when you go on vacation or leave for a few days.
- When you are home, make an effort to keep the home temperature the same at all hours to avoid a rapid temperature change, which could result in a frozen pipe.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle of water comes out, you may have a frozen pipe.
Likely places for frozen pipes are those against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Turn up the heat in your home to bring the temperature up.
- Keep the faucet open. As the ice inside the pipe begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- If the frozen pipe is exposed, apply heat to it using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
If you are unable to locate the frozen pipe, or the area where it is frozen is behind a wall and not accessible, it’s time to call a licensed plumber.
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