Preventing Frozen Pipes and What to do When They do Freeze
“What’s worse than a major home maintenance disaster? Try several major home maintenance disasters at once. When a house’s water pipes freeze, the situation is not as simple as calling a plumber. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold. Frozen water pipes are a problem in both cold and warmer climates, affecting a quarter-million families each winter, and it can happen in homes with both plastic and copper pipes. It’s all too common, especially considering this damage is largely preventable” (State Farm). This is why it is important to take every possible precaution you can and why preventing frozen pipes must be a priority this winter. It is easier to take care of your pipes ahead of time than running around frantically trying to find someone who does emergency local pipe repairs.
Tips to help prevent pipes from freezing
The three primary factors that cause frozen pipes are: sudden drops in temperature, poor insulation on the pipes, and thermostats indoors set too low. It is important to star to working now, before the bitter cold sets in, to make preventing frozen pipes top priority.
- Insulate pipes in freeze-prone areas such as basements, attics, and crawlspaces. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing so any insulation is better than none; however, better insulation yields better results.
- Heat tape or programmed heat cables can be wrapped around pipes to prevent freezing. Be sure to use reviewed and certified products and use them only as they are intended- indoors or outdoors. Closely follow all manufacturers’ instructions.
- Seal leaks in walls, windows, doors, and cracks to keep cold winds from blowing in and affecting your pipes. With severe cold, even a tiny opening will allow enough freezing air in to affect the pipes and possible freeze them.
- Before the truly bitter winter weather hits, disconnect garden hoses and if you can drain the hoses and pipes so there is no water sitting in them. This helps with preventing frozen pipes inside the home and keeps them warmer.
- A trickle of water flowing through the pipes might be enough to keep your pipes from freezing. Warm water is best as it will heat the pipes as it flows through and even cold water can keep things flowing and resist ice formation.
- Keep the thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. It can cost more to heat your home in the winter but even lowering the thermostat 5-10 degrees at night can allow the air temperature to freeze around your exposed pipes.
- Open cabinet doors and pantry doors in order to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes and keep them warmer. The primary area to look for these pipes include under sinks and appliances that are located near exterior walls.
Thawing a frozen water pipe quickly is important to avoid making a call for local pipe repairs. However, it is just as important to thaw the frozen pipe correctly. Doing it wrong can cause even more damage to your pipes. Preventing frozen pipes will mean you can avoid a burst pipe and potentially damaging flood at your property. Here are seven tips to help you get the water flowing again safely if your pipes do happen to freeze:
Tip 1: Locate the Frozen Pipe
In order to thaw a frozen pipe, you must first determine which pipe or pipes are frozen. Run the water at every faucet one at a time. If no water comes out or it is just a trickle of a flow, then the pipe is likely frozen. Be sure to check all pipes as more than one may be frozen.Tip 2: Open the Faucet
Before you being to thaw a frozen pipe, make sure you open the faucet connected to the pipes. Make sure to open both the hot and cold handles so you can relieve pressure in the plumbing and piping system and gives the water a place to go when it begins to thaw.
Tip 3: Where to Begin the Thawing Process
You should always start at the faucet end of the pipe and then slowly work your way down to the blockage. This ensures the pipe stays open so the water can flow out. If you start too far back the water can build up behind the ice and cause the pipe to burst.
Tip 4: Thawing Exposed Pipes
If you can easily reach the area of the frozen pipe you need to begin the process of thawing things out. Here are four options for thawing an exposed pipe.
- Hair Dryer- Using a hairdryer on low can slowly warm up the pipe and melt the ice as you move along the pipe, taking care to keep the dryer out from the thaw puddle.
- Heat Lamp or Portable Space Heater– You can also set up a heat lamp or similar light to slowly warm up the pipes, again keeping cords and electrical components away.
- Hot Towels– Another way to thaw a frozen pipe is to wrap towels that have been dipped in hot water around the pipe. This can help to slowly thaw the blockage.
- Electrical Heating Tape– A final option to thaw pipes without having to call for local pipe repairs is to use specialized heating tape applied directly to the pipe.
Tip 5: Thawing Enclosed Pipes
If the frozen pipe is located in an area that you cannot easily access, you have three options for thawing the pipe.
- Heat Up the Property– Increasing the temperature inside can help to thaw out interior pipes that may have become frozen.
- Infrared Lamp– For pipes in the wall that are frozen you can aim an infrared lamp at the area and warm up the wall from the outside.
- Remove Section of the Wall– If you are comfortable doing so, you can cut out the section of the drywall in order to access the pipe.
Tip 6: Things to Avoid
You should never attempt to thaw out a frozen pipe using any kind of open flame, such as a propane torch. This can not only damage the pipe, but it can also start a fire in your property. You do not want to add to your problems. It is bad enough that your attempt at preventing frozen pipes didn’t work, you do not want to add fire damage to the list of problems you have to deal with and take care of.
Tip 7: If the Pipe Bursts
If a frozen water pipe does burst, the first thing you should do is shut off the main water line into your property. You can prepare for this unfortunate vent by knowing where the shut-off valves are for your property and how many there are. And if you are unable to thaw out your pipes or you find yourself needing local pipe repairs and assistance, make sure you contact the plumbing experts who can take care of every need you may have.
It is important to do everything you can to keep your pipes protected. Preventing frozen pipes is important this time of year and the team at 5 Star Indy is here to help you with all of your local pipe repair needs in the area. Contact us today to learn more and to get started!