How to Prevent, Diagnose, and Thaw Frozen Pipes

January 11, 2017

It's January, and freezing temperatures are a reality for many across the U.S.  This is the time of year for hot chocolate, sledding?and frozen pipes.  Don't let this cold weather situation ruin your winter fun; follow these tips for preventing, diagnosing, and thawing frozen pipes.

Prevention

It is important to prevent your pipes from freezing.  Water expands when it freezes, putting tremendous pressure on your pipes.  This could result in bulging or even rupturing of pipes.  The American Red Cross provides suggestions for preventing this during cold weather:

  • Keep garage doors closed if water supply lines are located in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors, allowing warmer air to circulate around plumbing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night.
  • During especially cold weather, allow cold water to drip from faucets served by exposed pipes.
  • Leave the heat on in your home if you are going away, keeping the temperature no lower than 55° F.
    • If you're going away overnight, turn off the water supply as well.

Additionally, prevent a large property payment by calling your insurance agent for proper coverage.

Diagnosis

You've taken action against your pipes freezing, but how do you know when your pipes actually freeze?

  • No water comes out of the faucet, or only a small amount of water is getting through.
  • The pipe has frost accumulated on the outside.
  • The pipe is bulging.

Thawing

If you determine that your pipes are frozen, act quickly but safely.  The American Red Cross advises using the following method:

  • Keep the faucet open.  Running water through the pipe while it thaws will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe that is frozen.  Use an electric heating pad to wrap the pipe.  Other recommended sources of heat are an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or towels soaked in hot water.
    • Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device!
  • Keep applying heat until full water pressure is restored.
  • Check all other faucets in your home.  One frozen pipe could indicate more within the building.

If you cannot locate the frozen pipe or it is not accessible, call a licensed plumber for assistance.
 

Resources

http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm/frozen-pipes


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