What to do if your pipes are frozen?

Hand installs faucet cover to protect the plumbing from freezing in the winter

What to do if your pipes are frozen?

 

As winter rolls in and temperatures start to drop, it’s time to start thinking about your pipes. When water freezes in your pipes, its volume expands and puts pressure on the inside of the pipe. This can cause your pipes to burst or crack, leading to serious and expensive water and plumbing damage. That’s not what you want to spend your Christmas bonus on, is it? Luckily, there are some things you can do to protect your plumbing this winter to prevent any issues from arising.

 

How To Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

  • It may seem obvious, but temperatures can drop below freezing quickly and often without warning. It is beneficial to be informed about upcoming cold weather so you’re not fumbling around with your pipes out in the snow. 
  • Break out your winter coat and your pipe insulation! You should insulate the pipes inside your home, in attics and crawl spaces, with pipe insulation. The best type of pipe insulation will depend on your home, but in addition to typical pipe insulation you can also use heat tape or adjustable heat cables. When it comes to warm water pipes, insulation is beneficial on another level because it keeps your water 2 to 4 degrees hotter than uninsulated pipes. Bring on the warm showers!
  • Seal off any openings to the outdoors that could potentially let in cold air. These can often be found in places where a pipe runs from the inside of your home to the outside, such as dryer vents and water pipes. Cool air can creep in through these openings and cause your pipes to freeze without your knowledge.
  • For your outdoor pipes, you can use pipe covers for insulation as well. Make sure that pipes with cut-off valves are closed and drained. Disconnect your water hoses as well to prevent water from being retained.
  • When you see that temperature beginning to drop, start a slow drip of both hot and cold water in all of the faucets in your home, including bathtubs and showers. This keeps the water moving through your plumbing system and helps prevent pipes from freezing.

 

Uh Oh, I Think My Pipes Are Frozen! 

If you think your pipes may have frozen over, don’t panic. One way to see if your pipes are frozen is to check the water pressure by turning on the faucet. If the water only comes out in a slow trickle, it is likely that your pipes are frozen. If that is the case, look along your water supply lines and take note of any particularly cold spots or line breaks. If you discover any breaks in the pipes, make sure to turn off the main water supply to your home immediately to prevent any water damage. Then call a plumbing professional as soon as possible for assistance.

 

Thawing Frozen Pipes

If you see that your pipes are frozen, you should take steps to thaw them out. This needs to be done quickly and safely. 

  • Start by turning the faucet on to get water moving through the pipes. This will speed up the melting process (if your pipes are broken, though, do not turn your water back on). 
  • When dealing with exposed pipes, wrapping them with a heat source will melt the ice inside. This can be done with things you already have on hand, like a heating pad, a hair dryer, warm dampened towels, or a space heater.
  • If the pipes are enclosed in an area of your home that is hard to access- inside a wall, for example- try turning up the thermostat in your home to get the pipes to thaw. If this doesn’t help initially, you may need to cut open a section of the wall to access the pipes and then use the exposed pipe thawing methods mentioned above. 
  • When applying heat to pipes to thaw them, never use extreme heat as that could damage the pipe or serve as a fire hazard. Avoid open flames, heat guns, or blow torches for this reason. 

 

More Questions?

Frozen pipes may not be fun, but they’re more common than you might think. If you have any more questions about preventing or thawing out frozen pipes, or need immediate help with broken lines,

 

 

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