During the winter season and especially in extreme temperatures like the ones we have been experiencing, frozen pipes are a common problem. When pipes freeze, they often burst, leading to serious damage like flooding, structural problems or mold. The good news is that frozen pipes is highly preventable. According to the American Red Cross, there are a few ways you can prevent pipes from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Even if you don’t think you have any frozen pipes, take these precautions:
- Make sure garage doors are closed if there are water supply lines located in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Running water through pipes can help prevent pipes from freezing. When the weather is severely cold, allow the cold water to drip from the faucet.
- Keep your thermostat at the same temperature both during the day and at night.
- If you are travelling during the cold months, leave the heat on in your home and set to a temperature no lower than 55°F.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you discover that your pipes have frozen, here are some tips to properly thaw them and avoid serious damage:
- Check all the faucets in your home. If you turn on a faucet and water trickles out, you probably have a frozen pipe. Most likely if one pipe is frozen, others are also frozen.
- As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, keep the faucet open to allow water to flow through the frozen area. Running water will help melt ice throughout the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of the frozen pipe or until water pressure is restored.
- Helpful tools for applying heat include a heating pad wrapped around the pipe, a hair dryer or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heaters, charcoal stove or other open flame devices.
- Remember: Call a licensed plumber if you can’t find the frozen pipe, the frozen area is inaccessible or if the pipe will not thaw.
How to Protect Pipes from Freezing
You can also take steps to protect your pipes from freezing:
- Adding insulation to water lines in unheated areas, such as attics, basements and crawl spaces will help maintain higher temperatures.
- Install specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Even newspapers can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to prevent freezing.