Follow these easy tips for preventing, thawing frozen pipes
December 6, 2013
NEW — 4:45 p.m. Dec. 6, 2013
Water expands when it freezes. This puts tremendous pressure on its container, including metal or plastic pipes, often causing them to burst during exceptionally cold weather.
The American Red Cross offers these easy tips to get your pipes through the current cold spell and the rest of winter:
Preventing frozen pipes
Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:
— Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife and landscaping.
— Remove, drain and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
— Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
— Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes — even 1/4 inch of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
During cold weather, take preventative action
— Keep 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.
— When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe — even at a trickle — helps prevent pipes from freezing.
— Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
— If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
To thaw frozen pipes
— If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
— Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
— Apply heat to the section of pipe 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 area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
— Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.