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As winter rolls in, it's vital that you know how to prevent pipes from freezing. When water freezes in your pipes, whether due to quick drops in outside temperatures, poor insulation or the thermostat set too low, its volume expands and puts pressure on the pipe from inside. This can cause a burst pipe, but even a small crack or two can be the start of some devastating and expensive water and plumbing damage.
This guide will show you how to keep pipes from freezing, what to do if you suspect that you may have fully frozen pipes, or even just a small amount of ice in your water lines, and suggest tips on how to thaw frozen pipes.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
There are number of steps you can can take when learning how to keep pipes from freezing in the first place.
- Insulate pipes located in the attic and crawl space using pipe insulation, even if the climate where you live does not often have hard freeze conditions. You can also wrap pipes in heat tape or heat cables with a thermostat control. The best pipe insulation for your situation will depend on your home. Always install according to the manufacturer's directions.
- Seal or caulk any cracks that might let in cold air, especially places where pipes run from inside to outside the home, such as dryer vents or water pipes.
- Preventing frozen pipes should be done outdoors as well. As you winterize your home, disconnect your garden hoses.
- For any outdoor faucets with cut-off valves, be sure they are closed and faucets are drained. You can also protect them by using faucet covers throughout the winter months.
- If cold weather settles in and you notice temperatures beginning to drop, start a small drip of both hot water and cold water in the kitchen, bath, laundry areas and any other faucets in the home. A small water drip is all that is needed to keep water moving through the system and prevent frozen pipes.
- Be sure to alert a trusted neighbor if you'll be away more than a few days, and ask them to check periodically to make sure that the measures you have taken in preventing frozen pipes worked and that nothing has ruptured.
If You Discover Frozen Pipes
- Turn on the faucet. If there is only a drip or trickle of water, you may have a frozen pipe.
- Check along the water supply lines, taking note of very cold spots. Inspect carefully to see if you notice any line breaks.
- If you find any broken pipes, turn off the main water supply to the house. Then, immediately call a professional plumber for assistance.
Thaw Frozen Pipes
Thawing frozen pipes needs to be done quickly and safely. Here are a few ideas for thawing exposed and enclosed pipes.
- First, open up the faucet for the affected pipe. The flowing water will help the ice melt even faster.
For exposed pipes, especially, surrounding the pipe with a heat source will melt the ice inside. This can be done in several ways:
- Wrap the pipe in a heating pad and turn the temperature dial up to high.
- Aim a hair dryer on high at the pipe. Keep the air moving back and forth and around the pipe in 12 to 16-inch sections at a time.
- Encircle the pipe in heated, dampened towels. Change these wraps frequently as they lose heat to the pipe.
- Position a space heater to circulate warm air around a section of the pipe. Move the heat source to different sections as needed and continue until the pipes are thawed and the water pressure returns to normal.
For enclosed pipes, either in a wall or an area that is hard to reach, try these tips:
- Turn up the heat in your home. The higher temperatures could help thaw out any pipes located inside walls.
- If needed, cut out a section of the wall to access the pipe. Then use any of the above methods for exposed pipes.
Tip: Never use extreme heat or open flames, such as a heat gun or blow torch, to thaw a pipe. This presents a fire hazard and can also cause serious damage to the pipe.
Learning how to prevent pipes from freezing can be done fairly easy by following a few steps and by finding the best pipe insulation to prevent freezing, as well as using proper thawing methods. Looking for a product to complete your project? We have options to deliver online orders when and where you need them.